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Bid for UN vote on Mali sanctions gains momentum

The UN Security Council votes to authorise a 4,000-strong regional protection force within the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). FILE PHOTO

United Nations, United States | AFP | A bid for a UN Security Council vote early next week on a French-sponsored resolution that would set up a sanctions regime for Mali gained momentum Friday despite resistance from some countries, diplomats said.

Russia and Ethiopia have voiced reservations over the proposal, raising the possibility of a delay of several weeks, but the diplomats said negotiations on holding a vote on Tuesday have accelerated.

That would put it just before Security Council ambassadors leave for an annual meeting with the African Union in Addis Ababa.

Mali’s government and coalitions of armed groups signed a peace deal in June 2015 to end years of fighting in the north that culminated with a takeover of the territory by jihadists in 2012.

A French-led military intervention in January 2013 drove out the Islamists, but insurgents remain active, moving to the center where attacks and trafficking of drugs and weapons are on the rise.

France last month circulated a draft resolution to the UN Security Council on establishing a committee tasked with setting up the UN blacklist as fears grow that the West African country is sliding back into turmoil.

The move is backed by Mali’s government, which told the council in a letter in early August that repeated violations of a ceasefire since the beginning of June were threatening to derail the peace deal.

Russia, a veto-wielding council member, warned the peace deal could collapse if the council endorses the request and sides with the government, which is one of the parties to the peace deal.

“We are always against the sanctions regime, especially in this particular situation, when one of the parties to the agreement on peace and reconciliation asks for sanctions against the other two parties,” said Russian Deputy Ambassador Petr Iliichev.

“When one party asks for another (to be sanctioned), we can expect a collapse of this agreement,” he added.

– Mali sanctions blacklist –

The French-drafted resolution would set up a sanctions committee made up of all Security Council members who would designate individuals and entities to be blacklisted by the United Nations.

Those who are blacklisted would be subject to a global travel ban and an assets freeze.

Iliichev suggested that the government in Bamako was having second thoughts about the sanctions after a new ceasefire deal was reached on August 23.

Ethiopia’s Ambassador Tekeda Alemu, who is council president this month, told a news conference that the measure was “delayed” because discussions were under way and no meeting was scheduled on the proposal in September.

Mali and four neighboring countries — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania and Niger — are working to set up a counterterrorism force to fight jihadists in the Sahel, which France has warned could become a haven for extremists.

In the latest attack to shake the region, gunmen opened fire on a restaurant in the Burkina Faso capital of Ouagadougou on August 14, killing 19 people, including several foreigners who were dining on a terrace.

The UN peacekeeping force in Mali has come under repeated attacks by insurgents and is now known as its most dangerous UN mission in the world.

Four armed groups active in Mali are already on the UN sanctions blacklist for their ties to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State: Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the MUJAO Islamist movement, Al-Mourabitoun and the Ansar Eddine group, along with its leader Iyad Ag Ghali.

The measure would also set up a panel of experts tasked with monitoring compliance with the sanctions and reporting to the council on violations.

The sanctions regime would have a one-year mandate.

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