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UN to vote on Sahel force after Franco-US deal

Update: June, 21/2017 - 11:40

UNITED NATIONS, United States The UN Security Council will vote Wednesday on a draft resolution that would pave the way for the deployment of a five-nation African military force to fight jihadists in the Sahel region.

The vote was scheduled for 1400 GMT after France reached a deal with the United States on the proposed measure, which welcomes the deployment but does not give it full UN authorisation, according to the agreed text seen by AFP.

Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger -- which make up the so-called G5 -- agreed in March to set up a special counter-terrorism operation of 5,000 troops for the Sahel region.

In a first text circulated two weeks ago, France had requested that the Security Council authorise the G5 force to "use all necessary means" to combat terrorism, drug trafficking and people smuggling.

The United States however had opposed UN authorisation for the force, arguing that it was not legally necessary and that the mandate was too broad and lacking in precision.

The new draft resolution "welcomes the deployment" of the G5 force "with a view to restoring peace and security in the Sahel region" and drops a provision that invoked chapter 7 of the UN charter, which authorises the use of force.

The United States had argued that a simple statement welcoming the regional force would have been sufficient, but France insisted that a full resolution was needed in line with a request from the African Union.

"We’re pleased to have reached agreement with our French friends," said a spokesman for the US mission to the UN. "The outcome is a resolution that welcomes the deployment of troops that has caused so much suffering in the region."

French Ambassador Francois Delattre said the amended text was "stronger in terms of the support" it is expected to receive from council members, in a reference to US backing for the draft.

"This resolution will send a strong, very strong signal that the Security Council is united and firm against terrorism in the Sahel," Delattre told reporters.

"Such a force is more than ever needed in this region."

UN funding for the force?

Five people died in an attack on Sunday on a resort near Mali’s capital that was claimed by an Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist alliance, the latest to shake the region.

The G5 force will have its headquarters in Mali, but will be under a separate command from the UN peacekeeping force MINUSMA and work in coordination with France’s own 4,000-strong military presence in the region, known as Barkhane.

France had initially pushed for a report from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on much-needed logistical and financial support for the new force, but in negotiations that language was dropped.

The draft resolution instead requests that Guterres report on "challenges encountered and possible measures for further consideration" in the coming months, which could include funding.

The European Union has already agreed to give 50 million euros to the regional force, but the United States and Britain were unwilling to commit UN funds for the operation, according to diplomats.

As the leading financial contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, Washington wants to tighten overall spending. 

France carried out a military intervention in Mali in 2013 to drive out jihadist groups, some of which were linked to Al-Qaeda, which had seized key cities in the country’s north.

Although the Islamists have been largely ousted from the north, jihadist groups continue to mount attacks on civilians and UN forces in violence that has engulfed parts of central Mali. — AFP

 

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