The UK Special Envoy to the Sahel, Stephen O’Brien, today joined members of the Malian government and representatives from the wider international community at the meeting of the Support and Follow-up Group on the Situation in Mali, which is also known as the “Friends of Mali” group.
The “Friends of Mali” reviewed recent developments in Mali including recent military progress, and welcomed the agreement of the Government of Mali to a political roadmap which sets out the path towards elections in July and a more inclusive political process. They undertook to support implementation of the roadmap and to continue humanitarian assistance, as well as continuing efforts to support the Malian Armed Forces and wider African-led forces in their efforts to restore peace and security across the whole of the country.
The meeting highlighted in particular:
- The Malian commitment to implementing the road map to elections and the restoration of democracy;
- The need to cement the gains of the military operation and simultaneously help the people of Mali make progress on the political track – including dialogue with non-extremist groups in northern Mali; and,
- The need for all parties to respect human rights.
Speaking after the meeting, Stephen O’Brien said:
“Today’s Friends of Mali meeting demonstrated the growing consensus in Africa and amongst the wider international community that the ongoing military operation to defeat terrorism in Mali must be accompanied by greater momentum towards a political settlement.
“As we have said before, the UK firmly supports the French and African military intervention. Now that progress has been made, it is all the more important that the Malian Government moves forward towards elections and that talks with non-extremist groups in northern Mali resume in earnest.”
Representatives from over 40 countries and organisations attended the meeting which was co-chaired by the AU, UN and ECOWAS. This was the second meeting of the Friends of Mali group, following an inaugural session in Bamako in October 2012. The group provides an important forum for discussions between the Malian Government and its international partners, and includes the UN, regional organisations such as the EU and AU, African nations including Algeria, Nigeria and South Africa and a number of European Member States.
At a separate meeting in Brussels, defence officials from EU Member States were continuing the force generation process for the EU Training Mission to Mali (EUTM). As part of this ongoing process, the UK has offered up to 40 military personnel to the EUTM. We have also offered a small number of civilian experts as part of this mission to provide human rights training to the Malian armed forces on preventing and responding to sexual violence. We await the outcome of this process over the next few days.
As the Prime Minister has made clear, there are no plans for any UK troops to be deployed in a combat role to Mali.
The UK is working with international partners to support the Malian Government and others in the region to restore stability in Mali and tackle the threat from terrorism there and across the region. The UK continues to provide logistical and surveillance support to the ongoing French military operations and is also increasing counter-terrorism cooperation with countries in the region.
Alongside international partners, the UK is encouraging efforts by the Malian Government to take forward an effective, inclusive and sustainable political process that leads towards elections and the restoration of full democratic rule in Mali – as well as looking at ways to help the citizens of Mali to resolve long-standing grievances and to build long-term economic growth.
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