Veto by Russian Federation Results in Security Council’s Failure to Renew Travel Ban, Asset Freeze against Those Obstructing Mali Peace Agreement
The Security Council today failed to renew the travel ban and asset freeze imposed through resolution 2374 (2017) against individuals and entities obstructing implementation of the 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, unable to reach consensus on either of two resolutions that would have kept such measures in place amidst the drawdown of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
The first draft — submitted by France and the United Arab Emirates — would have, among other terms, renewed until 31 August 2024 the travel ban and asset freeze and would also have extended until 30 September 2024 the mandate of the Panel of Experts as set out in resolution 2374 (2017). However, it was rejected owing to a veto cast by the Russian Federation in a vote that had otherwise garnered 13 votes in favour, with 1 abstention (China). Use of the veto triggers the convening of a formal General Assembly meeting on the situation within 10 working days. (For background, see Press Release GA/12417.)
Speaking before the vote, the representative of the United Arab Emirates underlined the need to maintain a stable environment to achieve a safe, orderly drawdown of MINUSMA. She added that the resolution’s sponsors “paid careful attention” to the views of Mali’s transitional Government in putting the draft forward and that it emphasizes the Council’s readiness to review the continuation of sanctions measures at any time.
Following the vote, the representative of Mozambique, also speaking for Gabon and Ghana, expressed regret that the draft resolution could not be adopted due to the use of the veto. The text would have extended measures against those who obstruct or threaten the 2015 peace agreement and, while Mozambique, Gabon and Ghana gave due consideration to the transitional Government’s request, they assessed that “at this stage, the measures should continue”.
The representatives of the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Albania and Japan also expressed regret over the Russian Federation’s use of the veto, stressing that the Mali sanctions regime and the Panel of Experts are important Council tools in support of peace and stability in Mali. The representative of the United States, Council President for August, observed: “Once again, Russia has imposed its will on the Council in the face of the opposition of countries from the region.”
The Russian Federation’s representative, however, said that — despite his delegation’s repeated calls for sensible compromise — the text did not take into consideration the positions of either his country or Mali. Then, as the Council turned to his country’s competing draft — which would have renewed the travel ban and asset freeze for one final year and dissolved the Panel of Experts — he issued a warning. “If this is not adopted, then there is no coming back to discussing any further resolutions on this matter,” he said.
That draft was then defeated by a vote of 1 in favour (Russian Federation) to 1 against (Japan), with 13 abstentions.
The representative of France, after the vote, expressed regret that the Russian Federation put forward a text that was not subject to discussion among Council members at a juncture as crucial as this one for Mali and the region. Malta’s representative said that her delegation abstained because this draft sought to eliminate measures that would have assisted Mali on its path to genuine security and stability. China’s representative, meanwhile, said that — although his delegation did not receive instructions from its capital regarding the draft — it supports the content and elements contained within.
At the outset of the meeting, Council members engaged in a procedural discussion regarding the holding of consultations before today’s votes.
THE SITUATION IN MALI
A procedural exchange occurred at the outset of the meeting, with VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) and DAI BING (China) requesting that consultations be held before the vote. ROBERT A. WOOD (United States), Council President for August, while taking note of these positions, said that he will proceed with the vote, given that views have already been expressed and the text is substantively the same as the one that recently passed the silence procedure. Further exchanges followed, and PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO (Mozambique), also speaking for Gabon and Ghana, said that, while the countries for whom he speaks have taken a common position, they can accept allowing more time for an additional exchange of views. Mr. WOOD then indicated his intention to proceed with the vote, at which time Mr. NEBENZIA asked for a procedural vote on whether to hold consultations. Mr. WOOD then suspended the meeting. Upon resumption, Mr. WOOD said that the Council will hold consultations on the matter and suspended the meeting again.
Action on Draft Resolution
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates), speaking in explanation of position before action, acknowledged that implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali is facing difficulty. Acknowledging that the drawdown and withdrawal of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) are ongoing and that the first phase of MINUSMA’s drawdown has occurred successfully, she noted: “However, we need to bear in mind that the second phase is still ongoing, and it will be important to maintain as stable an environment as possible for the sake of achieving a safe and orderly drawdown.” In putting the draft resolution forward, she emphasized that “we have paid careful attention” to the views of Mali’s transitional Government, particularly its request for the lifting of the sanctions regime. The draft resolution emphasizes the Council's readiness to review at any time the continuation of the sanctions measures contained in Council resolution 2374 (2017).
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that the meeting had been preceded by good work on the sanctions regime, which met the needs of regional Council players; however, he noted that the draft does address those issues. Adoption of that text, which flouts Bamako’s desire to end the sanctions regime, will simply undermine it. He recalled that the regime was set up by the Council in response to a specific request by Malian authorities and that attempting to emplace guardianship on that country without the authorities’ agreement is pointless. Pushing forward approaches that are unsuitable to Bamako will hamper further cooperation with the UN, and given current withdrawal of MINUSMA, “we must not allow that”. Therefore, his delegation could not support the draft, urging member States to support its alternative resolution, which takes into consideration the African countries’ view that the regime must be maintained, but not used for foreign influence on Mali.
By a vote of 13 in favour to 1 against (Russian Federation), with 1 abstention (China), the Security Council failed to adopt the resolution, owing to a veto cast by a permanent member.
Mr. AFONSO (Mozambique), also speaking for Gabon and Ghana, said that, to support international engagement in the political and security situations in Mali, the countries for whom he speaks voted in favour of the draft resolution. The text would have extended measures against those who obstruct or threaten the 2015 peace agreement — implementation of which remains critical for long-term peace and stability in Mali. While Mozambique, Gabon and Ghana gave due consideration to the transitional Government’s request, they assessed that “at this stage, the measures should continue”, he said
Against the backdrop of the potential negative impact of MINUSMA’s withdrawal on the peace agreement, he expressed regret that the draft resolution could not be adopted due to the use of the veto. Now, more than ever, the international community must support and encourage intensified efforts to implement the peace agreement. Mali’s peace, stability and territorial integrity depends — to a large extent — on doing so, he stressed.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) said that despite having to make a number of difficult compromises, his delegation voted in favour of the resolution because of its strong support for the renewal of the Mali sanctions regime and the Panel of Experts mandate. These are important Council tools in support of peace and stability in Mali. “For this reason, the United Kingdom deeply regrets Russia’s reckless use of the veto,” he stressed, also adding: “This will reduce the Council’s oversight and engagement of Mali’s peace process at a critical juncture”. Furthermore, the United Kingdom cannot support the Russian Federation’s proposal to dissolve the Panel of Experts on Mali. Despite the outcome of today’s vote, his delegation remains committed to supporting Mali’s peace agreement and pursuing accountability for human rights violations and abuses.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) noted her delegation voted in favour of the draft resolution because it represents an acceptable compromise. However, she expressed regret that use of the veto by a single member of the Council calls into question the renewal of the sanctions regime. This is all the more regrettable amid the backdrop of growing insecurity, leading to population displacements and the departure of MINUSMA under tense conditions. The resolution was intended to maintain sanctions measures aimed at encouraging the implementation of the peace agreement, as the progress that Mali has made with the international community must not be jeopardized. She affirmed that Council decisions on sanctions should take into account the information provided by the Panel of Experts, which assesses the humanitarian, political and security situation. Given the withdrawal of MINUSMA, she urged the Malian authorities to enable a peaceful transition and work towards stability in the region.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that, despite his delegation’s repeated calls for a constructive approach and sensible compromise, the text did not take into consideration the positions of either his country or Mali. Stressing that his delegation did not hide its views during negotiations — and that it advanced specific proposals to achieve compromise — he said that his delegation’s vote against the draft resolution “was highly unlikely to be unexpected”. He expressed hope that, in the future, sponsors of resolutions will make “wisdom and pragmatism” top priorities to avoid unnecessary confrontations in the Council — “particularly in circumstances when a compromise agreement was completely achievable if the political will had been there”.
ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania) said that her delegation voted in favor of the resolution, as it sees value in maintaining the targeted sanctions and Panel of Experts. “While the current text does not address many of our concerns, we made concessions in the spirit of compromise,” she said. Discussions in the Council Chamber earlier this week highlighted the fragility of Mali’s peace agreement and the ceasefire violations following hostile activities between the Malian transitional Government and signatory movements. As MINUSMA departs, it is imperative the Security Council maintain its focus on the situation and on the implementation of the agreement, which remains a crucial instrument for security and stability in Mali. The sanctions regime and the panel of experts have a crucial role to play in assisting Mali in implementing its peace agreement. “Therefore, we regret that one member used his veto power today, preventing the Council from reaching unity on this matter,” she said.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) stated that in light of the withdrawal of MINUSMA, it is imperative to safeguard the implementation of the 2015 peace agreement. Furthermore, any action that jeopardizes the security of Mali is a concern of the Council, as the country’s situation is inextricably linked to the Sahel and West Africa. Citing transnational organized crime and violations of international humanitarian law, and the vital role of played by the Malian sanctions regime in that context, he expressed deep regret that the Council failed to adopt the resolution due to use of the veto by one member. Emphasizing that organ’s solemn duty to work for the maintenance of international peace and security, and despite the regrettable outcome, he called on Member States to continue to work towards those goals for Africa.
Mr. DAI (China) recalled his country’s consistent, clear position on Council sanctions: They are a means to an end and should not be indefinite. Rather, they should be periodically reviewed, adjusted and lifted, based on the situation in countries concerned. Sanctions were established in 2017 at the request of Mali’s Government and they played an important role in supporting the implementation of the peace agreement. However, in recent years, the situation in Mali has changed, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs recently wrote to the Council that sanctions measures “could no longer meet the needs of the situation”. He expressed regret that some Council members pushed through a vote, which neither contributes to resolving the Malian issue nor helps the Council play a positive, constructive role.
Mr. WOOD (United States), Council President for August, speaking in his national capacity and expressing disappointment regarding the outcome of today's vote, said: “Once again, Russia has imposed its will on the Council in the face of the opposition of countries from the region.” The Council's failure to agree on the renewal of Mali’s sanctions regime, due to the Russian Federation’s actions, threatens peace and security, not just in Mali, but the entire region. “We voted in favour of this text because the Panel of Experts’ reporting is a central source of information on the situation in Mali,” he said. The travel ban and assets freeze remain necessary to stem the illicit financial transfers and ill-gotten gains both from Mali and into a region in which numerous malign actors operate and have, sadly, proliferated. “Due to Russia’s actions, this Council has failed to renew some of the most important international initiatives for addressing this crisis,” he said.
Action on Draft Resolution
Mr. WOOD (United States), speaking in explanation of position before action, called the Russian Federation’s draft for the sanctions regime “disingenuous”. It was introduced with no opportunity for discussion or negotiation. Although the text calls for maintaining the travel ban and asset freezes, it ends the Panel of Experts’ reporting mandate. Questioning Moscow’s decision to renew the sanctions for only six months, he underscored that the situation in Mali requires sustained support. The text put forward by the Russian Federation falls lamentably short in that objective. Following MINUSMA’s withdrawal, the Panel of Experts is the only UN mechanism left to monitor and report on human rights abuses, as well as to facilitate efforts to implement the peace agreement. The Panel’s elimination — as called for by the Russian Federation — would render the regime ineffective and not useful for Mali. Moscow seeks to eliminate the panel of experts’ mandate “to stifle publication of unconformable truths about Wagner’s actions in Mali”, he said, adding that the country is putting its interest above those in the region.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) underscored that sanctions must be targeted towards results and must not become “an instrument for the external imposition of blanket solutions on Mali”. Urging those present to vote in favour of the draft resolution, he said to the United States’ representative: “If this is not adopted, then there is no coming back to discussing any further resolutions on this matter.”
By a vote of 1 in favour (Russian Federation) to 1 against (Japan), with 13 abstentions, the resolution was not adopted, having failed to obtain the required number of votes.
Explanation after Vote
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France) said her delegation deeply regrets the use of the veto by the Russian Federation to prevent the adoption of the resolution renewing the sanctions regime in Mali. “France, jointly with the United Arab Emirates, has worked tirelessly in recent weeks to present a balanced text following the conclusion of an in-depth consultation process, which listened to the views of all member States of the Security Council,” she said. France regrets the fact that the Russian Federation has put to the vote a draft text which was not subject to discussion among the members of the Council at a juncture as crucial as this one for Mali and the region. This choice made by the Russian Federation follows the participation of Wagner mercenaries in fighting in the country, which imperils the ceasefire in Mali, she said.
Mr. DAI (China) said that, although his delegation has not received instructions from its capital regarding the Russian Federation’s draft, it supports the content and elements contained in it.
FRANCESCA MARIA GATT (Malta), supporting retaining the sanctions regime and maintaining the Panel of Experts, expressed regret that the first text was vetoed by the Russian Federation and that an alternative text was tabled. She said that her delegation abstained on the second draft resolution because it sought to eliminate measures that would have assisted Mali on its path to genuine security and stability. In light of MINUSMA’s departure, the sanctions regime plays a critical role as the United Nations sole source of monitoring the implementation of the peace agreement. As the situation in Mali remains deeply concerning, she urged the country’s authorities and all parties to the agreement to respect that instrument.