By Benjamin Villanti
By Benjamin Villanti
Morocco World News
New York, March 4, 2o13
In the first month after France intervened in Mali against al-Qaida linked militants, talk quickly shifted to turning over the country to a UN peacekeeping operation. Diplomats and UN officials speculated that the Security Council would start negotiation on a resolution to create a UN operation by the end of February that might replace the French forces by April.
But this past week, following a Wednesday meeting of the Security Council on Mali, French Ambassador Gerard Arraud told reporters that the Security Council was, now, first seeking a report from the United Nations on the feasibility of a peacekeeping mission by the end of March. “We are asking the Secretary-General to produce a report before the end of March about the modalities, the feasibility, the conditions of the creation of a peacekeeping operation,” the ambassador stated.
Following this report, and depending on the security situation, Arraud said the Security Council might then start negotiating a resolution to establish the UN force.
There have been several suicide bombings and continued fighting with Islamists during the month of February. This seems to have increased Security Council countries’ recognition that there remains a threat from the al-Qaeda linked groups, despite France having quickly retaken major population centers in the first weeks of its intervention.
Heavy fighting has taken place over the last week and a half in a mountainous plateau, called Adrar des Ifoghas, in Mali’s Northeast, where Chadian and French special forces have pursued many of the fighters.
The day before the Security Council meeting, French Defense Minister Yves Drian also indicated his country’s recognition that it may be unable to withdraw as quickly as initially sought. President Hollande had made pronouncements earlier in the month that France hoped to withdraw its forces by the end of March, but in an interview with radio station RTL, Drian said it was too soon to speak about leaving the country, noting “very violent fighting” was continuing.
A premature handover of the country to United Nations peacekeepers could result in the UN becoming the targets of regrouped al-Qaeda linked extremists. UN peacekeepers would be much less suited to conduct military operations against militants. In addition, UN officials are concerned that a peacekeeping operation to Mali will still be subjected to terrorist attacks against both peacekeepers and civilian humanitarian workers.
Some diplomats have said it seems more likely that a possible UN peacekeeping operation would not become fully deployed until June or July.
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