Council members will meet this afternoon (27 February) in consultations to discuss developments in Mali. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, is expected to brief. Council members are also expected to discuss the content of a 12 February letter (S/2013/113) addressed to the Secretary-General from the interim President of Mali, Dioncounda Traoré, circulated yesterday (26 February) among Council members. It seems that Council members may also hold initial discussions about the establishment of a peacekeeping operation. At press time, no outcome was planned immediately following the meeting.
Of immediate interest to many Council members is an update on “Opération Serval”, which France launched on 11 January and which has successfully rolled back the gains of the terrorists and insurgents that seized northern Mali shortly after the 22 March 2012 coup. Of particular interest to some Council members is what France has in mind as a transition from its forces to the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) which the Council authorised in resolution 2085.
The letter from Traoré is also likely to be a key issue during the consultations. It requested the rapid deployment of AFISMA to restore state authority and sovereignty prior to its possible transformation into a UN stabilisation and peacekeeping operation. It also indicated that a high-level delegation from Mali will be travelling to New York for meetings with the Secretary-General and Security Council members.
Following the circulation of the letter, an issue that may be raised today is the extent to which it represents a formal invitation to establish a stabilisation and peacekeeping operation in Mali to take over from AFISMA. It appears that the ambiguous language in the letter might make some Council members feel the need for further clarification from the interim government. In this regard, they are likely to be interested in input from the high-level Malian delegation traveling to New York which might shed some light on the interim authorities’ position.
Council members appear to be unified regarding the need for a UN stabilisation and peacekeeping operation to ensure the stability of northern Mali. However, initial divergences regarding the timing, the area of operations of the mission and the security situation on the ground might be raised as early as today. It also seems that there are differences among some Council members on whether the mission should focus mainly on securing the north or also have a significant presence in Bamako.
It seems some Council members are interested in hearing about the political developments in the country. Apparently, while the interim government seems to have some reservations about a heavy UN-footprint in Bamako, the letter requests s a UN facilitation and advisory role in support of an inter-Malian political dialogue including all the communities of northern Mali. Taking into account the tight timeline leading to the holding of elections before 7 July, and the initial stage of the discussions regarding the establishment of a mission, Council members are likely to be keen to get a better sense of the role the UN may be expected to play during the transition process.
In the Council’s last consultations on Mali on 6 February, some Council members highlighted the need to put in place human rights observers given the increasing allegations of violations of human rights in the country. Council members might want to inquire about the deployment of a mobile team of observers as agreed then by the Secretariat.
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