EU ministers to discuss Mali, prepare for donor conference

mali troops.JPG

EU foreign ministers are to discuss the political and security situation in Mali next week and prepare for a donors’ conference to help the embattled African state.

EU ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday and Tuesday are also scheduled to discuss Syria and talks aimed at unblocking a stalemate between Serbia and Kosovo, which prevent both nations from advancing in their EU integration.

Officials said that EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton will update ministers about Mali three months after the French sent an intervention force to halt a rebel jihadist advance.

The EU trains Mali’s armed forces and has committed €50 million to support the deployment of the African-led Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA), authorised by a UN Security Council resolution.

An EU diplomat said the work of the African force, which is now deployed in parts of the country, will be assessed. The technicalities of the transfer of the forces’ authority to the UN will also be discussed.

Ashton is expected to report on the national dialogue and reconciliation that has been launched by the Malian government. “We will watch it and support it very closely,” the diplomat said.

Preparations will also be made for a donor’s conference scheduled on 15 May in Brussels. The EU agreed in February to release donor aid to the country to spur reforms and reconciliation between the nation’s south and north, where hostilities continue between insurgents and government troops.

The current EU aid package to Mali is worth close to €300 million, said Alexandre Polack, spokesman to Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

The situation in Mali will also be discussed on Monday when US State Secretary John Kerry pays a visit to Commission President José Manuel Barroso, the Commission said.

The European Commission unleashed €250 million in development aid for Mali last month to help the struggling government in Bamako, which sought French help to repel a rebel advance from the nation’s impoverished north.

Fighting between the internationally backed southern government and northern rebels has subsided since France sent an intervention force on 11 January.

Mali is at the epicentre of the broader Sahel, a formidable region where the Sahara desert transitions into savannah. Along with Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mauritania have all faced drought, food shortages and insecurity in the past two years.

  • 22-23 April: EU foreign ministers to meet in Luxembourg

European Commission

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