Russia and the government of Mali had objected to the indefinite extension of sanctions as harmful for the political process to establish peace in the country. They had sought a provision whereby the sanctions regime would be wound up in August 2024
On Thursday, August 31, Russia vetoed a resolution proposing the extension of sanctions against Mali for another year. The resolution was proposed by the country’s former colonizer, France, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The draft resolution proposed the extension of sanctions against Mali until August 2024, ignoring Russia’s demand that the text should mention that this would be the last extension.
The resolution was supported by 13 members. Russia vetoed it and China abstained from voting.
Russian ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya claimed before the placement of the resolution that the indefinite extension of the sanctions would be “counterproductive” as Mali had officially requested their lifting. He also said that it may compromise the efficiency of the sanctions regime and have a negative effect on the ongoing peace process in the country, TASS reported.
The Russian veto also led to the termination of the mandate of the UN expert group responsible for monitoring the human rights situation in Mali, AP reported. If the resolution was accepted, the mandate of the expert group would have been extended until September 2024.
Russia had proposed an alternative resolution which called for the immediate termination of the UN expert group’s mandate and extended the sanctions for the final time until August 2024.
Russia failed to get the necessary nine affirmative votes for its resolution as all other countries abstained from voting except Japan which voted against it.
The AP report claimed that the Russian veto was due to the UN expert group’s critical approach towards the role of the Wagner group, which was hired by the Malian government to fight against extremist groups in the Sahel region.
Russia claimed that its opposition to the expert group was a reflection of the wishes of the Malian government.
Russia claims UN mandate was blocking the peace process in Mali
Nebenzya claimed that the draft proposed by France and the UAE refused to take notice of the concerns raised by the Malian government and the Russian Federation. He underlined that Russia, Mali, and other African countries had agreed to extend the sanctions for a year on the condition that it would be the last extension.
Nebenzya said that sanctions “should not turn into an instrument of external influence on domestic political processes in Mali,” as was increasingly seen in recent times.
Mali has faced large-scale violence by extremist groups in Africa’s Sahel region ever since the NATO-led invasion of Libya in 2011. The then Malian government had invited French and UN troops to counter the violence.
After the failure of the 2015 Algiers agreement between the then government and the rebel groups, UNSC sanctions were imposed on Mali in 2017 with the consent of the Malian government at the time.
However, the presence of French troops in Mali was never accepted by the people, which led to a mass movement against them. France was finally forced to withdraw all its troops from the country earlier this year after a regime led by Colonel Assimi Goita took power in May 2021.
The Malian military regime has also asked for the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers from the country. The mandate of United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA) is set to end on December 31.
In a letter to the UNSC, the new military regime has also demanded the lifting of all sanctions on Mali. The eventual lifting of the sanctions would help consolidate the peace process in the country, Nebenzya claimed.
Explanation of vote by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia before UNSC vote on a draft resolution on renewal of Mali’s sanctions regime
This meeting was preceded by lengthy work on a draft resolution on renewal of Mali’s sanctions regime that would be acceptable for members of the Security Council and the regionals, and also would accommodate the position of Mali. We must say that the draft resolution in front of us does not solve these tasks.
We are convinced that adopting the document as it is, given the fact that Bamako submitted an official demand to abolish sanctions regime, would be counter-productive both for ensuring efficiency of the sanctions regime and for the Malian peace process. This step would antagonize further pasties to the Algiers Agreement.
We all remember that the Security Council imposed a sanctions regime on Mali in 2017 following an official request of the Malian government, and its main goal was to promote Malian settlement on the basis of a peace agreement. There is no doubt that attempts to thrust Security Council’s wardship on the Malians without their consent are futile. We repeatedly said that during the negotiations.
We also said that using the authority of the Security Council to push through approaches that Malians find unacceptable may jeopardize the entire architecture of Bamako’s subsequent cooperation with the United Nations, which becomes particularly important against the withdrawal of MINUSMA which is underway now. We must not let this happen.
Based on these considerations, the Russian Federation cannot support the draft resolution that has been put forward by the co-sponsors.
We call on the colleagues in the Security Council to demonstrate strategic wisdom and pragmatism by supporting our alternative draft resolution. What’s crucial about it is that it takes into account the position of African members on the Council suggesting that the sanctions regime must remain for some time so its potential can be used for the purpose of implementing the Algiers Agreement. However, it is fundamentally important that the Security Council sanctions should aim at solving this exact task, and not turn into an instrument of external influence on the internal political processes in Mali. I mean an instrument like the one that the Panel of Experts of Security Council Committee 2374 has become.
We disagree that the Panel of Experts is the only UN mechanism at the disposal of the Security Council for supporting the Malians’ efforts in a peace process. It is obvious, first, that for one of its parties, the government of Mali, the PoE has already lost its relevance in the context of the Algiers Agreement for a number of reasons. Secondly, the Council has every opportunity to determine the modalities of its own work in support of domestic settlement in Mali and relevant parameters for the use of UN resources. However, this should be done only with the consent of the direct participants of the peace process.
In our alternative draft resolution, we propose to disband the Panel of Experts, effective today, and limit the sanctions regime to one year, with a clear indication that, in order to meet Mali’s formal request, this is going to be the final extension.
Explanation of vote by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia after UNSC vote on a draft resolution on renewal of Mali’s sanctions regime
Russia voted against the draft resolution on renewal of the sanctions regime as regards Mali.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that we have repeatedly called for a constructive approach and a reasonable compromise, the draft that was put forward to us took absolutely no account of the concerns of the Malian side and the position of the Russian Federation.
In our explanation before the vote we again provided a detailed account of reasons and considerations that underpinned our decision to vote against.
Nor did we conceal any of that during the negotiations process. We worked in a completely transparent manner, on the basis of concrete proposals and with the aim of reaching an acceptable compromise. All chances and opportunities for that were there until the very last moment. But we must state with regret that position of the Russian Federation was not taken on board and the meaningful step was towards accommodating Mali’s official request was not made.
Therefore our vote against hardly came as a surprise to anyone.
We hope that in the future, sponsors of resolutions will prioritize pragmatic approach and the interests of the host country in order to avoid unnecessary confrontation in the Security Council. Especially in the circumstances where a compromise agreement could have been made if certain delegations had had the political will for that.
Right of reply:
We were not going to take the floor again. But now that you [representative of the United States] have made a statement in your national capacity, we need to add clarity.
We said that we call on our colleagues to demonstrate strategic wisdom and pragmatism by supporting our alternative draft resolution. We also said that position of African delegations on the Council had not been taken on board, according to which the sanctions regime should be preserved for some time. The US representative said it was about six months. Let me make this clear for all Council members that is not about six months, but about one year. And it is about preserving the sanctions regime to try and use its potential for promoting the implementation of the Algiers Agreement. But it is fundamentally important that these sanctions must aim at resolving this exact task rather than turn into an instrument for exerting external pressure on Mali’s domestic political problems. All the more so with the help of the Panel of Expert which has long exhausted its potential and needs to be shut down. After all, we did close the Panel of experts on Guinea Bissau back in the day without any dramatic consequences to follow.
We once again call on the Security Council to heed our words and vote in favor of our draft. Let me say it again to the US representative, this time for the record, that after and if this resolution is not adopted, there will be no getting back, no discussions of a new draft.