GENEVA— A senior U.N. official says the United Nations and several African organizations agree that military action may be necessary to re-establish constitutional order and national unity in Mali. U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson has just returned from several days of discussions in Mali on political and military options for dislodging Islamist extremists who control the country's north.
U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson says there was unity among all the parties present in the Mali discussions in planning for a political process and for a military operation if necessary. He says there was no dissenting voice.
"On the first point, there is a hope that there are groups in the North of Mali who would want to distance themselves from the extremist and terrorist groups and by that, isolate those groups," said Eliasson. "We hope that such a process is going on. The second element is an element, which is related to the Security Council Resolution 2071, which was adopted in New York on 12 October, which authorizes the United Nations to help in the political process but also to help in the planning for a possible military mission."
Eliasson met with representatives of the African Union, ECOWAS, and the sub-regional organization in the Malian capital Bamako. He says it is important that the meeting took place in Mali because it allowed the Malian authorities to participate in the discussions and enabled the people affected by the extremist takeover of the north to watch what was happening.
The deputy secretary-general says the ongoing crisis in Mali cannot be divorced from the grave humanitarian situation affecting the entire Sahel region, where an estimated 18 million people are at risk, including one million children threatened with malnutrition and hunger.
He says the United Nations has a strong team working both on the political front and on the military planning in Mali. He says the U.N. Security Council will receive the Secretary-General's report on the crisis in Mali in about 35 days. Then, he says it will be up to the Council to decide whether to go ahead with a military operation.
"It is a very important situation, a situation that has ramifications not only for Mali but also for the region obviously," said Eliasson. "There is a grave humanitarian aspect to the situation, also if there were to be a military operation, and of course you do not know what ramifications these developments will have on neighboring states. So it certainly is logical that the Security Council is involved in an issue which has such important security ramifications for the region and the world."
Turning to another turbulent part of the world, Eliasson says he hopes the warring factions in Syria will agree to stop fighting during the four-day Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday. He says this cease-fire, which was proposed by U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and subsequently followed up by the special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, is an opportunity not to be missed.
He says a truce could reduce the level of violence and create a climate in which political progress can be made. He appeals to the members of the Security Council to show unity and to come up with a plan that can bring about the end of the violence, which already has claimed more than 30,000 lives.