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article imageUN Security Council unanimously welcomes Sahel force

By Carole LANDRY (AFP)     Jun 21, 2017 in World

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Wednesday that paves the way for deployment of a five-nation African military force to fight jihadists in the Sahel region.

The French-drafted resolution welcomes the deployment but does not grant UN authorization to the 5,000-strong force after the United States opposed formal Security Council backing for the operation.

Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger -- which make up the so-called G5 -- agreed in March to set up the joint counterterrorism operation and the African Union had sought UN backing.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the council had expressed "its full, clear and total support" for the African force and called on the international community to provide assistance to the troops.

The United States had argued that UN authorization was not legally necessary because the troops will be operating on the territory of the five countries.

After two weeks of negotiations, France dropped the request for formal UN authorization and for a special UN report on financing for the force.

The 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 authorizes the use of force.

French Ambassador Francois Delattre highlighted the unanimous vote at the council, calling it proof of "maximum political support" for the G5 force.

"At a time when terrorism is striking everywhere in the world, we cannot let the Sahel region become a new haven for terrorist organizations from the entire world," Delattre told the council.

"It is our security which is at stake in the Sahel, not just the security of the G5 countries."

- Funding needed -

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.

Addressing the council, Mali's ambassador expressed gratitude but said the force will need logistical and financial support.

"I appeal for increased and substantial support from our bilateral and multilateral partners to mobilize the necessary means to ensure the force is operational and effective," said Issa Konfourou.

France had initially pushed for a report from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres outlining the logistical and financial needs, but in negotiations that language was dropped.

The 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.

The United States, the leading financial contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, wants to scale back funding and had strongly opposed any plan for UN funding.

The resolution notes that a pledging conference will be held to raise funds for the force but states that the G5 countries "have the responsibility to provide" the troops with adequate resources.

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.

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

More about Mali, Unrest, Un, France, Military
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