All members of the UN Security Council have backed France’s military intervention in Mali to fight Islamist rebels, officials have said. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he hoped the intervention would help restore “Mali’s constitutional order and territorial integrity”. Thousands of African troops are due to join Malian and French forces to help push back the rebels’ offensive. France intervened on Friday after the Islamists began advancing southwards
French authorities said they had feared that the rebels would march on the capital, Bamako, creating a grave security threat for the wider region. On Monday, the Security Council convened in New York for an emergency meeting at France’s request. After the meeting, France’s UN ambassador Gerard Araud said his country had the “understanding and support” of the 14 other Security Council members. But he added that France also wanted the deployment of a West African force to happen “as quickly as possible”.
The Security Council’s support for the French military intervention is an indication of the deep concern here about the growing strength and control of armed extremist groups in Mali. Diplomats seem most preoccupied about how quickly African troops can get to the country to help Mali’s weak army. That’s the UN plan, but the resolution authorising it envisaged a timeline over many months to prepare for an offensive, alongside a political reconciliation process between the government and nationalist rebels. That’s been disrupted by the Islamist advance and the French intervention. The plan is being fast-tracked now, with African contingents set to arrive in Bamako as early as next week.
Mr Araud said France wanted the Africans to take over the military operation as soon as possible, but he admitted it wasn’t clear how this transfer was going to happen. The danger is that the Africans might not be able to take on the Islamists with the West playing only a supporting role, sucking France into a long military engagement. The force will be deployed under UN Security Council resolution 2085, which was passed in December and allows for a 3,000-strong African-led mission to intervene in Mali later this year in the absence of any negotiated solution.