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International assistance for Mali

International plans to resolve the crisis in Mali are becoming more concrete. The Economic Community of West African States ECOWAS intends to deploy a military force there. The EU and the United Nations are likewise deliberating on their next steps. The German Government believes it is crucial to make headway on the political process involving all forces in the north of Mali that are willing to enter into talks.

On 11 November ECOWAS Heads of State and Government agreed at a summit in Abuja to establish a 3,300-strong military force to help resolve the conflict in Mali. The decision has been welcomed by the international community. In the same vein Foreign Minister Westerwelle noted that “the decisions ECOWAS Heads of State and Government have taken concerning the crisis in Mali underline the determination of the country’s neighbours to see an African led solution to the crisis.”

Deliberations in the Security Council

On 12 October the Security Council adopted resolution 2071 (2012) on Mali pledging to assist ECOWAS in planning the deployment of an international military force in the country. The resolution also calls on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to present a report on Mali by the end of November. This will serve the Security Council as a basis for deciding what further steps are needed.

Following a coup over six months ago, Mali is now in severe crisis. Islamist groups have taken control of large areas in the north of the country. Both its neighbours and Western countries fear the region could become a safe haven for terrorists.

European Union assistance

EU Foreign Ministers have also discussed the situation in Mali. At the Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels on 19 November EU High Representative Catherine Ashton presented a crisis management concept, which identifies ways in which the European Union could support a stabilization mission for Mali. A decision on the concept is likely to be taken at the next Council meeting in December. By then the UN and ECOWAS are expected to have decided on their next steps.

Speaking on 19 November in Brussels, Defence Minister Thomas de Maizière emphasized that it was important to keep a possible military deployment by African countries strictly separate from any EU training mission. Any such mission would be of a subsidiary nature, he explained. The prime responsibility for resolving the conflict lay with the UN and the African countries.

Political solution key

Foreign Minister Westerwelle with acting National Assembly President Younoussi Touré

Foreign Minister Westerwelle with acting National Assembly President Younoussi Touré
© Photothek / Th. Trutschel

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Foreign Minister Westerwelle with acting National Assembly President Younoussi Touré

Foreign Minister Westerwelle with acting National Assembly President Younoussi Touré

Foreign Minister Westerwelle with acting National Assembly President Younoussi Touré

Foreign Minister Westerwelle has stressed yet again that the main thrust of efforts to resolve the conflict had to be political rather than military. It was also important to take into account the legitimate concerns of people living in the north of Mali.

The idea of European assistance for the African efforts now under way is something Westerwelle has repeatedly supported, including in a joint newspaper article written with his French counterpart Laurent Fabious. In their article the two ministers urge the need for EU instruments to be used to help resolve the grave crisis in the Sahel. “The situation in Mali is of critical importance not only for the security and stability of the Sahel and the entire African continent but also for Europe’s own security,” they point out.

Talks in the region

On his recent trip to West Africa, Foreign Minister Westerwelle visited Mali on 1 November. In the capital of Bamako Westerwelle met with Mali’s Foreign Minister Tieman Coulibaly, interim President Dionkounda Traoré and Prime Minister Modibo Diarra. He also held talks with representatives and parliamentarians, including Tuareg, from the north of the country. On 3 November he met with ECOWAS representatives in Nigeria to coordinate action to resolve the crisis in Mali.


Last updated 19.11.2012

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