The situation in Mali has been discussed at all recent meetings of the EU Foreign Affairs Council, most recently at the Council meeting I attended in Brussels yesterday. The Council yesterday adopted comprehensive conclusions which reaffirm the EU’s support for international efforts to support stabilisation in Mali and to counter the threat of terrorism. Recognising that the issues in Mali cannot be addressed by military means alone, Ministers emphasised the importance of progress on the political track and especially the implementation of the transition roadmap which has been agreed by the Malian Government and Parliament. In particular, EU Ministers have underlined the preparations for the free and fair elections that are scheduled to take place before the end of July, and the establishment of a National Commission for Dialogue and Reconciliation in Mali. The Council stressed the importance of international co-ordination on Mali and welcomed the outcomes of the meeting of the Support and Follow-Up Group which took place in Brussels on 5 February, at which the Minister of State for Trade and Development represented Ireland as part of our Presidency of the EU.
Following the discussion on the resumption of development assistance to Mali, which took place at the informal meeting of EU Development Ministers in Dublin on 12 February, the Council welcomed the gradual resumption of EU development aid, within the framework of a "State-Building Contract", linked to implementation of the transition roadmap. I am particularly concerned at the impact of the crisis on the civilian population of Mali, which was addressed by the Council yesterday, with particular emphasis on the plight of refugees and displaced persons. The Council also addressed reports of human rights violations in Mali. The EU's commitment of support for the deployment of human rights monitors in the country is an important development. In our discussions on Mali, the Council reviewed progress on the deployment of the EU Training Mission in Mali and reaffirmed the EU’s support for the efforts of the African Union and the regional authorities to put in place the African-led force, AFISMA. We also discussed the broader regional dimensions of the crisis and underlined the importance of the EU’s Sahel Strategy and the appointment of an EU Special Representative for the Sahel.