UNITED NATIONS – Mali's foreign minister appealed Tuesday for international intervention in Libya to combat the spread of terrorism in the Sahel region of Africa and restore a central government.
Abdoulaye Diop told the U.N. Security Council that "as long as a solution is not found to the Libyan crisis almost everything that we are doing in Mali and throughout the Sahel more broadly speaking will continue to be threatened."
Widespread militia violence has plunged Libya into chaos less than four years after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The internationally recognized government was forced to move to the eastern city of Tobruk after Islamist-allied militias seized the capital Tripoli over the summer and set up a rival government.
Diop reiterated an appeal from leaders of the Sahel for the Security Council and the African Union to set up an international force "to neutralize the armed groups," but also to promote national reconciliation and set up stable democratic institutions for Libya.
He stressed the link between the onset of the crisis in Mali in 2012 and the civil war in Libya which resulted in many Malians that were part of the Libyan army returning home with arms and ammunition which destabilized the country.
Northern Mali fell under control of ethnic Tuareg separatists and then al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremists following a military coup in 2012. A French-led intervention in 2013 scattered the extremists, but new bursts of violence have erupted.
In Libya, Diop said, the chaotic situation is compounded by a resurgent terrorist organization in the south that has declared allegiance to the Islamic State extremist group, "which is a source of great concern to all of us."
"Unless we help the Libyans to have a state structure, to have a security apparatus which is able to control these terrorist organizations, it will be just an illusion to think that we can have security and stability in the Sahel," he said.
U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the council that the security situation in northern Mali remains "extremely volatile" and "very dire," with almost daily attacks.
Since July 2013, when the U.N. took over peacekeeping in Mali from an African-led force, 33 peacekeepers have died and 109 have been injured, Ladsous said. "No other mission in contemporary times has been so costly in terms of bloodshed."
Algeria has been mediating talks between the Malian parties who are scheduled to meet again in early February to discuss a draft peace agreement distributed in November.
Ladsous said the peace process is at "a critical stage." Diop said Mali's president is committed to achieving a peace agreement "that would be lasting and comprehensive."
Diop repeated his call for an intervention brigade, like the one the U.N. established in Congo, with robust rules of engagement and resources to fight the terrorist groups in northern Mali.
Malian, French and U.N. forces are working to tackle the terrorist threat and Algeria and Niger are securing their borders, he said
"The weak link remains ... Libya, where something needs to be done," Diop said.