Government troops are advancing in northern Mali in an effort to pressure Tuareg separatists to relinquish control of their last stronghold in the remote town of Kidal.
Tensions in the region are said to be high following increased public pressure that the Malian Armed Forces reclaim the area and after a recent wave of racially-based arrests and expulsions by the separatists in the town.
The United States supports an urgent negotiated resolution to the situation in Kidal.
The events further complicate plans to restore democratic rule to the west African nation, following a coup that toppled its government last year.
Presidential elections are set for July 28, but it’s unclear how residents of Kidal will be able to vote. It appears now that leaders in the rebel-held town won’t allow Malian officials to return to the area with the security forces that the Malians feel necessary to assure the safety of both the officials and the voting.
Leaders in neighboring Burkina Faso have been working with the newly appointed Malian Special Representative for the North to mediate the crisis, but no agreement has yet been reached.
The United States supports an urgent negotiated resolution to the situation in Kidal, one that will permit the return of civil administration so the elections can be carried out in the entire Malian territory on the scheduled date.
We also condemn the racially-motivated acts of detention and expulsion in Kidal, and call on all parties to respect human rights and fully comply with their obligations under international law.
Free, transparent and credible elections will be vital to restoring peace and stability in Mali and the surrounding region. They would also set the stage for restoring the nation’s territorial integrity and a broader process of needed national reconciliation, one in which all parties and interests have a voice.
We are fully committed to such elections, and we are providing financial assistance for them. We commend the leadership of Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore and the support of the United Nations, African Union and other international and regional partners in this effort.