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UN: Mali Mission Needs 'Tuning'

FILE: Meeting of support for U.N. security mission MINUSMA to remain in Mali. Taken in Timbuktu, Mali on April 30, 2023.

UNITED NATIONS HQ, NEW YORK — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Tuesday for maintaining but streamlining a peacekeeping mission in troubled Mali, whose military leaders have clashed with the West and turned to Russia.

"As I stressed in January, the status quo is not and cannot be an option," Guterres wrote.

In a report to the Security Council, which will vote June 29 on extending one of the most dangerous U.N. missions, Guterres called for a "reconfiguration" of the effort known as MINUSMA first launched 10 years ago.

"It can also neither be an option for the Malian people, who continue to bear the brunt of unspeakable violence and whose strong yearning for a better future remains unfulfilled, nor one for the international community, which, since 2013, has invested heavily in the stabilization of the country."

"The Council could consider streamlining MINUSMA tasks around a limited set of priorities to improve its overall effectiveness until the end of the political transition," promised by the junta by March 2024, Guterres said.

In January, Guterres submitted a strategic review of MINUSMA at the request of the Security Council to assess options for a mission tasked with stabilizing a state that has come under heavy pressure from jihadist violence.

With the security situation deteriorating, Guterres proposed three options including raising troop levels and pulling out the mission completely.

In the end, he opted for a middle course, calling for MINUSMA to maintain its current level of 13,289 soldiers and 1,920 police personnel.

Mali's military rulers have increasingly clashed with the West and former colonial power France wound up a controversial nine-year military operation in November.

The junta has since moved firmly toward Russia, enlisting the paramilitary Wagner Group and siding diplomatically with Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.