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France lobbies for UN Security Council debate on Mali sanctions

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French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly with Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August Habibou Kouyate/AFP

The UN Security Council may vote next week on a French-sponsored proposal of a sanctions regime aimed at enforcing Mali's peace deal, which has seen an increasing number of breaches since June, diplomats said Friday.


Despite Russia's and Ethiopia's reservations, negotiations on holding a vote on Tuesday, ahead of an annual meeting between Security Council ambassadors and the African Union in Addis Ababa, were accelerating on Friday, according to the diplomats.

France started circulating the resolution, which is backed by Mali's government, last month.

It would set up a committee to draw up a blacklist of ceasefire violators and impose a travel ban and assets freeze on them.

In a letter in August Mali's government warned that repeated ceasefire violations threatened to derail the peace deal it agreed with rebel groups in 2015.

Islamist rebels active

Islamist and Tuareg rebels took over much of the north of the country in 2012 but were stopped after a French military intervention in January 2013.

French troops are still present in the country, as is a UN force, Minusma, and five countries - Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania and Niger - are working to set up a joint anti-terror and smuggling force in the Sahel region.

Russia, which has a veto on the council, claims the peace deal could collapse if sanctions are declared against signatories.

"We are always against the sanctions regime, especially in this particular situation, when one of the parties to the agreement on peace and reconciliation asks for sanctions against the other two parties," said Russian Deputy Ambassador Petr Iliichev. "When one party asks for another [to be sanctioned], we can expect a collapse of this agreement."

Ethiopia's Ambassador Tekeda Alemu, who is council president this month, told a news conference that the measure was "delayed" because discussions were under way and no meeting was scheduled on the proposal in September.

Four armed groups active in Mali are already on the UN sanctions blacklist for their ties to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State armed group - Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the Mujao Islamist movement, Al-Mourabitoun and the Ansar Eddine group, along with its leader Iyad Ag Ghali.