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Volume 561: debated on Tuesday 23 April 2013

12. What progress has been made on rebuilding democratic and accountable institutions in Mali; and if he will make a statement. (152357)

The UK’s primary goal in Mali is to encourage the transitional authorities to pursue an inclusive political process that supports long-term stability. We welcome the commitment to a road map and the creation of a national commission for dialogue and reconciliation, but rapid progress is required if that is to stay on track.

The French Parliament has just voted to extend France’s military mission to Mali at least until the end of the year. A French colonel is reported in Le Monde as saying that the Malian military remains ill-equipped and ill-trained. How long does the Minister think the UK will contribute by deploying troops to the EU training mission?

Let us be absolutely clear that the UK is offering the French deployment, at the behest of the civilian-led sovereign Government of Mali, limited logistical support. Approximately 40 UK military personnel are deployed as part of the EU training mission, three of whom are specifically related to the Foreign Secretary’s initiative on preventing sexual violence in conflict. They are there to train the Malian army with respect to human rights. Other international and multilateral discussions are taking place on deploying AFISMA—the African-led international support mission to Mali—to replace the French troops and, ultimately, a UN mission.

Indeed, Jeffrey Feltman, the United Nations Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs, said last week that it was vital that the political process be taken forward in Mali. Given our previous military involvement, what specific assistance are the UK Government giving to the political process? Does the Minister envisage the elections taking place by the summer of this year?

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary visited Bamako recently to support that process. The Prime Minister has appointed a special representative, my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Mr O’Brien), who is very involved in the process. The hon. Gentleman is right to focus on the importance of the political process. We are discussing whether we can support the efforts of the African Union as well. We need to ensure that all the groups in the north are involved in the political process, and that mechanisms are put in place to air and resolve the grievances of those who live in the north.