Henry Bellingham (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Africa and the United Nations), Foreign and Commonwealth Office; North West Norfolk, Conservative)
We support the progress that has been made towards returning Mali to constitutional, civilian rule following the forcible seizure of power on 21 March. We welcome the inauguration of interim President Dioncounda Traoré on 12 April and continue to support the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)-led efforts to return Mali to full democracy, including the holding of elections. But we remain deeply concerned by the deteriorating security situation in the north of the country following the capture of three cities by Tuareg insurgents, some with reported connections to al-Qaeda.
We understand that agreement was reached over the weekend of 19-20 May to extend the mandate of the interim government for a further 12 months. However, the status of this agreement remains unclear following the attack on President Traoré on 21 May. Reports suggest that over 300,000 men, women and children have been uprooted by the current crisis in Mali. This on-going conflict is further exacerbating the already worsening food crisis that is currently affecting some 18 million people across the Sahel.
We condemn the latest violence and continue to engage actively—including through our recently reopened embassy—with ECOWAS, regional governments and our international partners to support a swift return to democratic, constitutional government.