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Let me first thank the Moroccan presidency of the UN Security Council for organising this important event and you personally for chairing it.
I would also like to thank you for having invited the European Union. HR/VP Catherine Ashton is chairing the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels at this moment and unfortunately couldn’t join us today. I’m delivering this statement on her behalf.
I thank you, the UNSG, his Special Envoy for the Sahel, Mr. Romano Prodi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Antonio Guterres, and H.E. the FM of Côte d’Ivoire for their statements.
Today’s Ministerial debate is a timely and a necessary initiative.
The European Union is extremely concerned about the prevailing situation in the Sahel and in Mali in particular. This situation requires an urgent, coordinated and determined action by all those concerned in Mali and in the region, with the support of a united international community.
The Sahel is suffering not only a humanitarian crisis but also the fallout from the conflict in the north of Mali and the political crisis in the south. Time is playing in favour of terrorist and criminal groups in the north, who pose a threat to the entire region and beyond. They are already perpetrating serious human rights violations in Mali, for which they must be held responsible.
The crises in Mali and Sahel are interconnected. Only a durable solution to the political and security crisis in Mali will allow lasting peace and development throughout the Sahel. However, lasting peace in Mali will not be achieved if Sahel-wide issues are not addressed.
We believe with many of you that a truly comprehensive approach is therefore needed. We encourage the UN to finalize and implement a UN integrated Strategy under the leadership of the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy, Mr Prodi.
Since 2010, in close coordination with the Governments of Mali, Niger and Mauritania, the EU has been shaping and then implementing the EU Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel. The objective is to promote simultaneously security, good governance and development at local, national and regional levels. The role of all neighbouring countries including States of the Maghreb is recognized in the EU Strategy.
In the current circumstances, the EU is committed to make special efforts on the security front: a new EU mission (EUCAP SAHEL) was launched in July 2012 to train internal security forces of Niger and reinforce regional coordination with Mali and Mauritania to tackle criminal activities including drug-trafficking and terrorism.
The EU is also committed to address a request made officially by the Government of Mali to help modernize and train the Malian Defence Forces, under legitimate civilian control. This future EU Training Mission should also address the need to help restore the chain of command and generate a credible leverage on the use of force with due respect to the international humanitarian law.
This EU engagement is as part of global support for the restoration of State authority, political transition, reunification and stability in Mali.
To complement the Malian Defence Forces, an African-led International Support Mission in Mali has a significant role to play – not alone but rather within and subject to a comprehensive political framework, and a coordinated approach by neighbouring countries. We await the UNSC’s conclusions on the AU proposal and will then assess what we can provide to it.
We are conscious that the task facing Governments in the Sahel region is enormous, and that international support is therefore essential. As in other crisis situations, it is equally critical that we all act in close coordination.
The UN, African Union and ECOWAS all have crucial roles to play in achieving these goals. The EU will work closely with all of them.