The UN Security Council on Wednesday agreed to consider setting up a sanctions regime for Mali to punish those who are hindering a struggling peace deal, the council president said.
The council discussed the faltering peace effort in Mali after a car bomb killed 50 people in the northern city of Gao in an attack on joint patrols set up under the agreement.
Condemning the attack, council members said "persistent delays threaten the viability of the agreement" signed by the Malian government and rebel groups 19 months ago, said Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog, this month's council president.
The council discussed ways to shore up the peace deal "including the possibility and implications of establishing a sanctions regime to increase pressure on those who obstruct implementation or resume hostilities," Skoog told reporters.
The United Nations is pushing for full implementation of the peace accord signed in June 2015 between the Malian government and rebel groups aimed at ending years of fighting in the north.
Mali regained control of the north after a French-led military intervention in January 2013 drove out jihadists, but insurgents remain active across large parts of the region.
Addressing the council, UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous backed sanctions that he said should target those who violate the ceasefire and undermine the peace process.
The proposed sanctions regime would set up a mechanism to allow individuals and entities to be blacklisted by the United Nations. Targeted sanctions include a global travel ban and an assets freeze.
No more peace to keep
Ladsous said the absence of state authority in northern Mali had allowed the "terrorist phenomena to take on increasingly worrisome proportions," and warned that the "window of opportunity to generate tangible peace dividends is closing."
"If the security situation continues to deteriorate, there will be no more peace to keep in Mali," he warned.
Map locating the northern Malian city of Gao, where a suicide attack killed dozens of people
The United Nations has deployed 13,000 troops in Mali to serve in the MINUSMA force, but they have repeatedly been targeted in attacks.
French Ambassador Francois Delattre said sanctions could be "extremely appropriate" to put pressure on opponents of the peace deal, but no draft resolution was presented to the council.
The head of the MINUSMA force warned that the pullout of seven Dutch attack and transport helicopters from the peacekeeping mission will deal a serious blow to operations.
The Netherlands will pull out the helicopters at the end of February, but the mission will have to wait at least two months for Germany to send replacements, said Mahamat Annadif.
"Without them, I can't do anything," Annadif told reporters of the helicopter unit, adding that it was "unacceptable" for the mission to be left without the necessary air support for such a period of time.
The council is planning to hold a special meeting of troop-contributing countries to generate more helicopters, armored personnel carriers and other equipment needed for MINUSMA.
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