Koenders: ‘Agreement is first step towards a new Mali’

The peace agreement signed in Mali last Friday is the first step towards a new Mali, says foreign minister Bert Koenders. ‘The agreement can – and must – allow northern Mali to enter a new phase of stability and development. The people of Mali have already suffered for far too long due to the conflict; this agreement needs to result in tangible improvements, and the sooner the better,’ said Mr Koenders, who was closely involved in the peace talks and is in direct contact with the negotiating team in Bamako.

The foreign minister, who previously headed the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA in Mali, emphasised that the agreement is an essential step towards peace, security and sustainable development, not just for Mali but for the wider Sahel region as a whole. ‘The agreement is a good stepping stone towards resolving the numerous local conflicts in northern Mali,’ Mr Koenders said.

Mr Koenders said he had been very concerned about the increasing instability in Mali and Libya in particular. In his opinion, the failure of the peace process would have been the worst possible outcome for the entire Sahel-Sahara region. ‘It was and is crucial to do everything in our power to prevent this happening,’ he said. ‘The situation on the ground is still very unstable. All parties need to respect the ceasefire. The implementation provisions must be carefully defined and strictly enforced.’

‘The unwavering energy and consensus that typified the commitment to the process by the whole international community – the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and ECOWAS – were key to its success. Special thanks must go to Algeria for the way it guided the process,’ Mr Koenders added. ‘The international community, and the EU in particular, will need to actively monitor the agreement’s implementation. This applies equally to resolving the many local conflicts in northern Mali and guiding reconciliation. The Netherlands will take a firm stand on this, as an EU country and independently, and where necessary I will make this my personal priority.’

Mr Koenders believes that achieving peace and stability in Mali will require long-term commitment. ‘Now that the foundations have been laid, we can turn to establishing the truth and focusing on reconciliation.’ The Netherlands is contributing in a number of ways to achieving peace and stability in Mali, providing MINUSMA with more than 450 staff and making extensive development cooperation funding available.