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Mali asks UN to take on drug traffickers fueling conflict

Abdoulaye DiopMali asked the United Nations on Tuesday to take on drug traffickers and roll out an emergency aid package after a peace deal was signed to end violence in the north.

Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop told the Security Council that the UN peacekeeping force must help restore state authority in the north after an Islamist takeover in 2013 plunged the country into turmoil.

“This will be a first test for the agreement,” Diop said as the council prepares to vote next week on renewing the mandate of the 11,500-strong MINUSMA force.

The foreign minister called for a major anti-drug effort to put an end to the trafficking fueling conflict in northern Mali and stressed that peace would not take hold without such a campaign.

“We will never achieve a definite settlement for this crisis without this initiative because drugs are fueling all sides in this conflict,” Diop said.

Revenue from drugs smuggling has helped rebel groups throughout the region, some of whom are allied with Al Qaeda, to buy weapons and finance their offensives.

The 15-member council was meeting to discuss ways to cement gains made in northern Mali after a Tuareg-led rebel alliance at the weekend finally signed a peace accord agreed several months ago.

The accord had been signed in May by the Bamako government and another coalition of rebel groups, but the holdout Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) had balked at the deal.

The deal is aimed at ending conflict in the north that led to an Islamist takeover in 2013 that finally ended when French troops were deployed amid fears that the insurgency could reach Bamako.

The UN envoy for Mali, Tunisian Mongi Hamdi, told the council that the coming months would be critical for northern Mali and called on international financial institutions to quickly unlock funds.

“The Malian populations must be able to see the peace dividends,” Hamdi said.

Diop called for an emergency humanitarian package that would allow safe passage for aid convoys to the north and provide badly-needed assistance for civilians.

“This is one of the first tasks that we need to tackle, with the help of the United Nations,” said Diop.

The council is due to vote Monday on renewing the MINUSMA force, one of the most dangerous UN peace operations which regularly comes under attack by militants.

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