President Jacob Zuma is pushing for dialogue in Mali as the only solution to lasting peace in the region. At an UN High Level Meeting on the greater Sahel Region, President Zuma's views pitted him directly against other leaders, most notably French President Francois Hollande. Hollande, together with some of the leaders are instead pushing for the Security Council to immediately consider a request from Mali's leaders to authorize the deployment of a stabilization force to recapture the north of the country.
A leadership vacuum after a coup in March allowed Islamist rebels to capture the north.
On Mali, President Zuma was cautious. “SA encourages the parties in Mali to pursue a path of political dialogue, in order to establish peace and security in the country.”
France, a former colonizer in Mali, is of a different view.
French President Hollande said, “I know there's still a temptation to attempt negotiations, but negotiate with who? If we're talking about a political force that wants to participate in the construction of Mali's future, so be it, but negotiating with terrorist groups, that is out of the question.”
The UN is expected to appoint a special envoy to co-ordinate the UN's integrated strategy for the region.
Countries also warned that the region was becoming a hotbed for drug trafficking and weapons smuggling, while President Zuma pointed out that fleeing rebels from Libya's conflict continued to play a role in this crisis. The Security Council is unlikely to authorize any military intervention immediately due to a disagreement between ECOWAS and Mali's authorities over the nature and timetable of the proposed intervention.