The UN Security Council meeting is due to start at 11 am in New York. The meeting is under high tension over the withdrawal of Minusma, the UN mission in Mali, whose mandate expires today (Friday).
A couple of weeks ago, Mali loudly called for its withdrawal “without delay”. But the modalities and timetable for this withdrawal are the subjects of bitter negotiations, which continued right up to the last minute. A resolution is due to be put to the vote shortly, against a backdrop of great uncertainty.
The final version of the draft resolution to be submitted to the Security Council for a vote provides for the departure of the Minusma on 31 December, six months from now. Discussions will continue with Mali until 15 August on several highly political points, such as the future of the UN’s involvement in monitoring the 2015 peace agreement.
As for the protection of civilians, the Blue Helmets would only be able to intervene if civilians were attacked in the vicinity of UN bases until 30 September. After that date, they would only be authorized to protect themselves, monitor their immediate environment, or carry out medical evacuations. The protection of civilians would be the sole responsibility of the Malian authorities.
Even under these conditions, six months is too long for Bamako, which is calling for them to leave within three months. This is because the transitional Malian authorities seek to get rid of the Minusma as quickly as possible and because the length of the withdrawal will determine the terms and conditions, with the issue, for example, of the equipment that the mission will take with it or leave behind.
Several member countries of the Security Council and UN technicians tried to explain to the Malian delegation that six months was, in their view, the shortest period technically possible for a safe and orderly withdrawal, and how six months corresponded, in their view, to the Malian request to pack up “without delay”.
Technically, the Security Council can vote for the resolution and the six-month withdrawal against Mali’s wishes. But the risk of a conflict with the host country is not desired by anyone, and could even pose a threat to the safety of UN personnel. Another possibility is for Russia, Mali’s ally, to use its right of veto.