Russia, China block UN support for ECOWAS sanctions on Mali

Russia and China have blocked the United Nations Security Council from supporting a decision by the West African economic bloc ECOWAS to impose new sanctions on Mali, after its military leaders proposed staying in power for up to five years before staging elections.

A French-drafted council statement endorsing the sanctions failed to be approved in closed-door consultations on Tuesday, prompting three African council members – Kenya, Ghana and Gabon – to speak to reporters to back the regional bloc’s position.

Kenya’s ambassador to the UN, Martin Kimani, said he was “disappointed” that the council could not agree on what he called a “relatively mild” press statement and expressed support for the “imposition of sanctions on the military authorities in Mali to ensure an expedited transition to constitutional rule”.

On Sunday, leaders from the Economic Community of West African States suspended most commerce and financial aid to Mali, closed land and air borders “with the states concerned” and activated the bloc’s standby force, saying it “will have to be ready for any eventuality”.

The move came after last month, Mali’s interim government proposed staying in power for up to five years before staging elections, despite international demands that it respect a promise to hold elections on February 27 this year.

France, Mali’s former colonial power which also holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, and the United States, have underlined their support for the ECOWAS sanctions.

“We are in complete solidarity with the region and with this very courageous and clear stance” by ECOWAS, French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters on Tuesday.

Washington also supported the “strong actions” by the 15-member bloc and urged the Mali regime to honour its pledge to return to democracy.

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