Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs written statement – made on 13th February 2013.

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Photo of William Hague William Hague The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

The Government have undertaken to keep this House updated on events in Mali and the wider Sahel region, including the deployment of UK personnel.

French and African military operations have driven terrorist forces out of the three cities of Timbuktu, Kidal and Gao. Some fighting is continuing in the

Gao region and the risk of attacks remains. This strong response is absolutely right; it will need international support and that is why we are providing military, diplomatic and humanitarian aid as well as increasing our counter-terrorism co-operation with countries in the region.

The meeting of the support and follow-up group for Mali in Brussels on 5 February demonstrated the growing consensus in Africa and among the wider international community that the ongoing military operation to counter terrorism in Mali must be accompanied by greater momentum towards a political settlement.

As part of that settlement, we welcome news that the Malians have agreed a road map for a transition to full democracy, including elections. It is essential that the implementation of that road map is given top priority in Bamako and that progress is made quickly.

Terrorism and violent extremism thrives where there is political instability, so we need to support an effective, inclusive and sustainable political process that leads towards elections and the restoration of full democratic rule in Mali.

We will also support the people of Mali and the region as they seek to re-build their livelihoods and resolve long-standing grievances. We have called for serious negotiations with non-violent groups in northern Mali to resume as quickly as possible.

Development partners, aid agencies and NGOs must work together to address humanitarian need and to build resilience to endemic poverty and food insecurity. Since 2012, the UK has provided £78 million in multilateral and bilateral humanitarian contributions to the Sahel through the UN, Red Cross and international non-governmental organisations. Of this, £17 million has gone directly to help Mali, including a further £5 million announced by the Secretary of State for International Development this week.

We welcome the appointment of Pierre Buyoya as the AU’s High Representative for Mali and the Sahel as well as the news that Said Djinnit, the UN Secretary-General’s special representative for west Africa, will be taking a leading role in promoting reconciliation. We hope that both will bring much needed leadership to these important issues.

We take very seriously reports of human rights abuses and violations in Mali. Human rights and international humanitarian law training will be an integral part of the EU training mission to Mali (EUTM) and any bilateral training provided by the UK. UN Security Council resolution 2085 emphasises that any support provided by the United Nations, regional and sub-regional organisations and member states in the context of the military operation in Mali shall be consistent with international humanitarian law and human rights law and refugee law.

The evolving threat from terrorist groups in Mali demands an international response. It must be one that is tough, intelligent, patient and based on strong partnerships. The scale of this challenge means that we must use everything at our disposal: our diplomatic networks, aid and trade, our political relations across north and west Africa, our military and security co-operation as well as supporting the building blocks of democracy, such as the rule of law and a free media.

The UK is supporting French efforts through logistical and surveillance support and by sharing intelligence. We are currently providing one C-17 transport aircraft in support of French and African operations. In addition, an RAF surveillance aircraft—the Sentinel R1—flew to west Africa on 25 January to support French and African operations. Around 70 technical personnel have deployed to Dakar, Senegal, to provide support to the aircraft. Neither they nor the personnel supporting the C-17 aircraft will have a combat role. We continue to discuss with the French Government what else might be needed.

In line with UNSCRs 2071 and 2085, preparations continue for the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) to support the Malian armed forces. To support this, we have pledged £5 million for two new UN trust funds: £3 million to help support AFISMA troops and £2 million to activity in Mali that would facilitate and support political processes for building stability. We have also offered to provide training and other practical support—such as airlift—to those Anglophone west African countries that are contributing troops to AFISMA.

The UK has also offered up to 40 military personnel to take part in the planned EUTM—as well as a small number of civilian experts under the FCO’s preventing sexual violence initiative to provide human rights and gender awareness training within the mission. Planning for the EUTM is continuing in Brussels. No deployment of UK personnel will occur until force protection requirements are fully satisfied. None of the UK personnel involved in training missions would have a combat role.

The UK is supportive, in principle, of French plans for a UN peacekeeping operation in Mali. This would need to be deployed in support of a political process that will build long-term stability and only when the conditions on the ground are such that it can play an effective role.