Mali - Remarks to the press by Mr Gérard Araud, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
France has requested a meeting of the Security Council because we want to act in a total transparency with the United Nations. The same way that we had a meeting on Thursday before launching the operation, we wanted to have another meeting now that the operation has been launched. We will keep the Council informed in the coming days.
What I can say about this meeting is that all the members of the Security Council have expressed their support and their understanding of the French decision. The statement made by the Secretary-General, who had a long conversation with Laurent Fabius yesterday, expressed this support too.
All the members of the Security Council have recognized that we were acting in perfect international legality, on the basis of the UN Charter and upon the request of the Malian authorities.
Another point, raised by the Russian Ambassador, is that we are also acting in the spirit of the resolutions, in particular of resolution 2085. And we all agree that we should go back to the implementation of resolution 2085.
Our political priority has not changed : it is the quick implementation of resolution 2085 in all its dimensions, especially through the immediate deployment of the African forces. African forces are going to be deployed in the coming days or weeks. The head of the force, a Nigerian General, is already in Bamako and we are grateful to some of our western partners who are providing logistical support to bring African forces to Bamako.
But at the end of the day, the real solution will be a political one. So we want to support a political process in Bamako and also the reconciliation between Malians of the North and the South, the negotiations with the armed groups who dissociate themselves from terrorism. We hope that the UN will support this process in all its dimensions.
Q : Is there a Malian army left to support or to train because there have been so many defections ? Secondly, what about those benchmarks that have been set in the resolutions ?
The Malian army has been attacked, they have been obliged to withdraw from Konna, they have suffered heavy casualties. But they are fighting and they are fighting in very difficult circumstances.
Once again, we have not started the real implementation of resolution 2085. In the coming weeks, in the coming months, it will be necessary to go through the benchmarks you are referring to, to the process of resolution 2085. Nothing has changed in this respect. Allow me to say that we are in the very first days with new circumstances. We may have to adjust, but we are remaining in the framework of resolution 2085.
Q : Will the first task of the African force change from training to actual combats and also you need a lot of airlift, you have sufficient airlift support of your Western partners. Do you have any new offers of support on that front of the US or others ?
In terms of logistical support, we have receive proposals by the US, Canada, UK, Denmark, Belgium, maybe Germany – there are a lot of countries which are providing logistical support. We have to adjust to the new reality but we are in the framework of 2085, so the first thing for the African force is to be a force. We have contingents arriving in Bamako. I am not a military but I do not imagine sending these contingents to the field before first having assessed the military capabilities, having created a real force, having gone through the benchmarks of the resolution 2085.
Q : After the French intervention, do you think that what is happening is going to be a long-term process ?
I do not know.
Q : What is the first step in the political process you are talking about ? How do you think it would work, particularly since there hasn’t been an interest in negotiations so far ?
First, there has been a negotiation, which has been conducted by President Compaoré and Mr Bassolé from Burkina Faso. We have had a political process. What we have been asking to the Malians for sometime is to agree, on a national basis, to a roadmap for negotiations. We would like to have this roadmap agreed in some form by the Malians, and after that, of course, this roadmap implemented in order to have something which has been agreed in Bamako, which is strong and sound-based for negotiations with the North.
Q : Just now Ambassador Bamba of Côte d’Ivoire seems to think that you are operating under resolution 2085, how will we know when you are ? It says that the Secretary-General was supposed to confirm in advance with the satisfaction of the Council, will you tell us when you are ? And also is Captain Sanogo in any way involved in the Malian military defence of Bamako, and what do you think of that ?
Captain Sanogo has an official role in the Malian army so I guess he is involved but I do not have precise information about it.
There is a real question raised by one of the members about how we are going to shift from what is a French emergency operation to the implementation of resolution 2085. First, we are in the context of resolution 2085. Secondly, we want to implant it as soon as possible. So there will be the question of determining if we need a formal transition or not. As it is in resolution 2085, there were questions before, there are the benchmarks, the OP11 “expressions of the satisfaction of the Security Council”… So there is a process and we will follow the process. But we are in the very first steps. First we need to have the African contingents in Bamako. They have not arrived yet.
Q : Can you explain to us what is at stake here, why this is this so significant and do you think the international community has rally around your cause enough, what would you like to see happen ?
As for the rallying of the international community, we had an extraordinary expression of support. I have not heard any country or any institution - maybe Ansar Eddine - expressing disagreement with what we have decided. This has been the case with the UN Secretary-General in his phone call with Laurent Fabius and today publicly around the table with the fifteen. France is very grateful of all these expressions of support to our soldiers who are risking their lives.
Nobody can say that France wanted to enter into a military operation. For the last twelve months, the French diplomacy looked for a political and diplomatic solution. We have tabled three resolutions which all of them are calling for a political settlement between the North and the South and giving to the Malians and the Africans the unique role for re-establishing the territorial integrity of Mali.
Suddenly, the terrorist armed groups launched an offensive. They have taken the city of Konna. At this moment, our assessment was that they were totally able to take Bamako. So we decided that the existence of the state of Mali and, beyond Mali, the stability of all West Africa were at stake.
With determination but also with reluctance we decided that we had no other choice but to launch this military intervention. We will conduct it as long as it will be necessary.