MALI – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the signing of an agreement between the Government of Mali and Tuareg rebels, providing for an immediate ceasefire and paving the way for country-wide presidential elections set for next month.
In a statement issued by a spokesperson in New York, the UN chief welcomes the accord reached between the Malian Government and the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad and the High Council for the Unity of Azawad, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, where talks between the sides have been under way.
“The agreement provides for an immediate ceasefire, paves the way for the holding of presidential elections nationwide and commits the parties to discussing sustainable peace in Mali through an inclusive dialogue that will take place after the election,” the statements says.
Northern Mali was occupied by radical Islamists when fighting broke out in January 2012 between Government forces and Tuareg rebels. The conflict displaced hundreds of thousands of people and prompted the Malian Government to request assistance from France to halt the southward march of the extremist groups.
The presidential elections in July are considered a key step in the transition process, and the UN and the European Commission have signed a financing agreement for €14.8 million in support of the electoral process.
Mr. Ban’s statement says that he is encouraged by the parties’ commitment to national reconciliation and the resolution of differences through dialogue. “He urges them to begin implementation of the agreement at once.”
Mr. Ban also expresses his gratitude to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for its mediation efforts, led by President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso and President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, with the support of the African Union and the UN.
“He reiterates that the United Nations stands ready to support the implementation of the agreement through the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and other members of the United Nations system, in cooperation with the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA), the African Union and ECOWAS,” the statement concludes.
Earlier in the day, Bert Koenders, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Mali and head of MINUSMA, also welcomed the signing of the peace deal, calling it “a crucial first step.”
“It is now important that the signatories are looking to the future and continue their efforts, hand in hand, for a practical implementation of this agreement to begin immediately in a coordinated and peaceful manner,” he said.
Mr. Koenders said he was encouraged by the commitment of the parties to national reconciliation and conflict resolution through dialogue based on human rights.
“I therefore call on all Malians: from north to south, from east to west and elsewhere, to work together to achieve peace,” he said, noting that they have the full support of the international community.
While MINUSMA has been supporting the peace process since it was established in April, Mr. Koenders noted that as of 1 July, a large peacekeeping force will be deployed in the country.
“MINUSMA is already in Mali and will remain there to support the peace process,” he said. “I will chair an international commission to oversee the effective implementation of today’s agreements, the success of which will depend on the political will of all Malian actors.”