France's U.N. envoy Gerard Araud defended his government's decision today to intervene in Mali, telling the U.N. Security Council in a letter that the operation was being carried out "within the bounds of international legality" and that it would last "as long as is necessary" to turn back an Islamist insurgency.
The French military action came one day after a loose coalition of Islamist insurgents who control northern Mali marched south, capturing the town of Konno and threatening to move against the regional capital of Mopti. In response, Mali's president M. Dioncounda Traore, appealed to President Francois Hollande for military assistance.
In a confidential letter Thursday to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki moon, Traore described his request to the French leader, sating that a "coalition of terrorist groups" has "attacked our front lines of defense," posing a threat to international peace and security. He informed Ban that he had requested "French military assistance against these terrorist groups."
Traore assured Ban that Mali's transitional government would continue to meet its commitments to the U.N. Security Council to engage in political talks with non-extremists opposition figures in northern Mali and pave the way for a return to democratic rule. He also said he would try to step up plans to deploy an African-led force in Mali.
In tonight's letter, Araud officially informed the U.N. Security Council tonight that France had entered the conflict in response to the Malian request. Mali, he wrote, is "facing terrorist elements" from the north that "threaten the territorial integrity of the state, its very existence, and the security of the population. As a consequence, I would like to inform you that French armed forces have delivered...support to the Malian units to battle against those terrorist elements."
Mali, he wrote, is "facing terrorist elements" from the north that "threaten the territorial integrity of the state, its very existence, and the security of the population. As a consequence, I would like to inform you that French armed forces have provided...support to the Malian units to fight against those terrorist elements."
Here's my unofficial translation of the French letter to the U.N. Security Council
From: France's U.N. ambassador Gerard Araud
To: S.E.M. Mohammad Masood Khan, President of the UN Security Council
At the instruction of my authorities, I would like to inform you that France has answered, today, to a request for assistance issued by the interim president of the Republic of Mali, M. Dioncounda Traore. Indeed, Mali is facing terrorist elements moving from the north that today threaten the territorial integrity of the state, its very existence, and the security of its population.
As a consequence, I would like to inform you that the French armed forces have provided, in response to that request and in concert with our partners, notably within the region, their support to the Malian units to fight against those terrorist elements.
This operation, which resides within the bounds of international legality, will last as long as long as necessary. I will naturally continue to inform you as is needed. My authorities would like to take this occasion to underscore that the evolution of the situation justifies the acceleration of the implementation of resolution 2085 for a solution to the Malian crisis in all its dimensions, political as well as military.
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Longtime Washington Post correspondent Colum Lynch reports on all things United Nations for Turtle Bay.