What's In Blue

Posted Mon 14 Jan 2013

Mali Consultations

Council members will meet this afternoon (14 January) at France’s request to discuss developments in Mali. France is expected to brief Council members on “Opération Serval” launched Friday (11 January) in Mali and it is likely that Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, will also brief. At press time, Council members were not expecting to take any action following the meeting.

On Thursday evening (10 January), France requested a meeting of Council members to discuss a letter it had received from the transitional government in Mali asking for help following the surprise seizure by terrorist and secessionist forces of the strategic town of Konna, which is seen as a gateway to the south and the capital, Bamako. In a press statement (SC/10878) agreed on during the meeting, Council members reiterated their call to member states “to assist the settlement of the crisis, and in particular, to provide assistance to the Malian Defence and Security Forces in order to reduce the threat posed by terrorist organisations and associated groups.” The press statement followed resolution 2085, adopted on 20 December 2012, which authorised the deployment of an African-led International Support Mission in Mali(AFISMA) and urged member states to provide coordinated support to it, including any necessary assistance in efforts to reduce the threat posed by terrorist organisations. It also urged a rapid deployment of AFISMA.

On Friday, France launched its first air strikes to stop the Islamist advance on the ground and help the authorities regain control over Konna, while interim President Dioncounda Traoré declared a state of emergency in Mali. France has so far deployed about 550 soldiers under “Opération Serval”. Media reports indicate that Konna was retaken on Saturday and that on Sunday there were aerial bombardments around the city of Gao, which was seized by the terrorist organisations and associated groups shortly after the 22 March 2012 coup that destabilised Mali. It seems that today the Islamist forces have gained control of the central town of Diabaly, to the west of Konna. Council members are likely to want to hear more about the operation and how effective it has been in blocking the Islamist advance in Mali.

Some Council members may be interested in discussing how the French action affects the implementation of resolution 2085. There are likely to be serious questions now about the time-table and planning for AFISMA. Resolution 2085 had emphasised that military planning needed to be further refined before the beginning of an offensive operation and asked for the Secretary-General to inform the Council of progress on this process as well as confirm in advance the Council’s “satisfaction with the planned military operation.” It is possible that Council members may want to discuss the impact that the French operation will have on these plans.

In addition some Council members may want to discuss what the current French military operation means for the transitional roadmap and elections which had been hoped for by April 2013.

It is also unclear how recent developments have affected the Council’s request for the Secretary-General to develop options by 20 January for a voluntary and UN-funded logistics support packages to AFISMA. Feltman may provide information on the progress made in refining possible options and how the implementation of any logistics support packages might be impacted by the French intervention.

Members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have indicated that they will send troops of their own, including at least 500 each from Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Togo, to work with the French troops. The UK and US have been providing transport and communications support and it seems a number of other European countries have also provided some logistical assistance.

While it seems that there was unanimity among Council members allowing for agreement on Thursday’s press statement, it is unclear if there may be some questions raised now about whether the French action was within the scope of resolution 2085 or Article 51 of the UN Charter more generally, or if there is a need for a further resolution which more explicitly approves the French action. (Acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the resolution “urges” member states, inter alia, “to provide coordinated support to AFISMA, including military training, provision of equipment, intelligence, logistical support and any necessary assistance in efforts to reduce the threat posed by terrorist organizations […]”)

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