Tomorrow afternoon (4 October), the Security Council will hold consultations on Mali, enabling members to have a preliminary discussion on the possibility of the Council authorising a force led by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). (Last month, the interim government in Mali requested assistance from ECOWAS to address the growing terrorist threat in northern Mali.) Jeffrey Feltman, the head of the Department of Political Affairs, will likely also brief Council members on the possible appointment of a Special Envoy for the Sahel region as part of the development of an integrated strategy encompassing security, governance, development, human rights and humanitarian issues for the region.
Tomorrow’s consultations follow a meeting by the P5 countries on Tuesday (2 October) on Mali. The meeting focused on the calls by many governments for urgent action to combat the terrorist threat and consequent political, humanitarian and security problems in the vast Sahel region during the 26 September high-level meeting on the Sahel. (The meeting was hosted by the Secretary-General on the margins of the General Assembly.)
It is likely that the Council will consider an 18 September letter from the Malian authorities to the Secretary-General requesting the adoption of a Council resolution authorising the intervention of an international military force under Chapter VII to assist the army in “recapturing the occupied northern regions”. It is also possible that Council members may have a preliminary discussion of the possible elements that would go into a draft resolution authorising a military deployment in Mali.
In August, Council members received a note verbale from the Permanent Mission of Côte d’Ivoire—the current chair of ECOWAS—containing a detailed ECOWAS concept paper for the deployment of a stabilisation force in Mali. ECOWAS proposed deploying a force of 3,245 troops in Mali. It budgeted around $258 million for the military deployment, and—envisaging the displacement of 200,000 people as a result of the operation—around $152 million to tackle the humanitarian problem within six months.
Council members, however, felt that the plan was not specific enough on staffing and other critical issues, and requested a feasible operational plan with better options. ECOWAS is expected to meet the AU and representatives of P5 countries in Bamako, Mali, on 19 October to discuss the details of such a plan.
Council members appear to be in agreement that action needs to be taken on Mali, particularly in light of what most members now see as a serious terrorist threat coming from Islamic militants in northern Mali. However, it is likely that there will be differences of opinion on the role of the Council and the speed at which a decision needs to be made. While some members are beginning to talk about alternative intervention plans, others believe that it is important for the Council to move in sync with ECOWAS. It is likely that these issues will continue to be discussed over the month.
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