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6 February 2013 - Mali - Remarks to the press by Mr. Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

(Unofficial translation)

For the third time since the beginning of the French operations in Mali, we have presented the results of the operations to our partners on the Security Council. First, we stressed the progress of the military operations. We also tried to assess the prospects.

First of all, prospects in terms of human rights issues, where, once again, we have insisted on the necessity of deploying human rights observers within all the territories liberated by both the Malian and French forces.

Secondly, regarding political dialogue, the timetable of UNSCR 2085 included political reconciliation and then the restoration of the country’s territorial integrity. What has happened means that the timetable has been reversed. First, Mali was liberated; now it is time to start the political reconciliation process on the basis of the road map adopted at the end of January by the Malian government. Thirdly, for the first time France mentioned to the Security Council the prospect of a peacekeeping operation being established when the security conditions allow it. This peacekeeping operation, under the Blue Helmets, will on the one hand enable the country to be stabilized and, on the other and above all, allow political reconciliation to be pursued. The United Nations must help the Malians build the country on new foundations. This means reaching a new national Malian pact which is not only between the north and the south, but concerns the whole of Mali.

Q. – What are the reactions of your 14 partners?

Of course, you need to ask them, but there was no objection. A number of countries – the United States, the United Kingdom, Morocco, Luxembourg, Australia, Guatemala, Argentina and other countries – expressed their readiness to examine the prospect of a peacekeeping operation.

Yesterday, M. Fabius announced that the level of our troops will start diminishing as from March, so there’s the prospect of a peacekeeping operation being created in several weeks’ time. This is why I initiated the debate today at the Security Council. I don’t have any instructions about presenting a resolution.

Q. – Regarding the leadership of Afisma, the international force, it seems that the UN, the Security Council, now prefers a chain of command depending directly on the UN rather than the African countries. Which would you prefer?

Yesterday, Commissioner Lamamra of the African Union said in Brussels to Mr Feltman, [UN] Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, that the African Union agreed to the prospect of a classic peacekeeping operation. So it won’t be an hybrid force, it will be a force under the Blue Helmets with a chain of command connected with the Security Council, like every United Nations force.

Q – (inaudible)

The logical thing, if the countries agree, would be Afisma contingents under the Blue Helmets. There might be other contingents, some of them might refuse, but the idea is to use contingents who are already over there.

Q. – African governments, especially the Malian government, are not really enthusiastic about the idea of having a UN peacekeeping force. Have the discussions advanced on that side of things?

There won’t be any UN peacekeeping operation without the Malian government’s request. Some misgivings have been expressed. This will form part of the necessary dialogue we’re going to have to hold in the coming weeks at the Security Council with our African and particularly our Malian partners.

The Secretariat specified that, on the Malian side, there were different views, depending on the who was speaking, and that the objections weren’t aimed at the presence of the UN in the north but the presence of the UN in the south, and so there needed to be a discussion with the Malian government about what form the UN presence takes.

Q. – Can you tell us exactly how you are going to deploy the UN troops there and how the relationships work with the French troops that are already on the ground?

We are not yet deploying a peacekeeping operation. There is the prospect of a peacekeeping operation. It was the first time that I had raised the issue at the Security Council and I insisted on the fact that the deployment will be possible only when the security circumstances permit. I think that we will have to wait several weeks before assessing the security environment and taking the decision to deploy a peacekeeping operation.

As for the French forces, they will stay as long as necessary but they will leave as soon as possible.

Q. – But they are protecting the civilians...

But there will be a peacekeeping operation. First, you now have the French forces and the African AFISMA forces. AFISMA is not under the Blue Helmets. So, what we will have – and it is not the first time that this has happened at the UN: it happened for instance in Côte d’Ivoire – we will have to have a transition, from the French and AFISMA to a UN peacekeeping operation. It will be easier because most of the contingents of the peacekeeping operations will be the African contingents, under the Blue Helmets.

Q. – You are talking about objections in Bamako about the presence of this force in the south. Are you therefore willing to agree to it being only in the north?

We really aren’t there yet. It’s natural for there to be questions and objections in Bamako. After all, it is their territory. Before proposing a peacekeeping operation, we will need to hold a dialogue with the Malian authorities and we will obviously take their positions into account. The Secretariat itself said that there were different ways ahead in Bamako.

Q. – Regarding national reconciliation, how far have things got with the political dialogue?

There has been the adoption of the road map. Furthermore, the President of Mali said elections will be held on 31 July. So a whole political process is being set in motion. We think it is very important for there to be a Special Representative of the UN – who could, moreover, also be a Representative of the African Union – who pushes the dialogue forward. We know there are also some attempts to take revenge; reconciliation must prevail over this spirit of revenge. The prospect of elections is necessary to give the Malian government every necessary legitimacy to ensure reconciliation.

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Organisation des Nations Unies Présidence de la République France Diplomatie La France à l'Office des Nations Unies à Genève Union Européenne Première réunion de l'ONU