Mali in "critical phase" of peace process: UN envoy

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UNITED NATIONS, June 12 (Xinhua) -- The UN envoy for Mali said Wednesday that amid ongoing violence in the west African country, a critical phase of the peace process has now been reached, calling for marked improvement in its security situation.

Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the special representative of the UN secretary-general for Mali, expressed his belief that the 2015 peace accord between armed groups and the Malian government still provides opportunities for real progress, over the next six to 12 months.

The Malian government has been seeking to restore stability following a series of setbacks since early 2012 that fractured the country, including a military coup, renewed fighting between government forces and Tuareg rebels, and the seizure of its northern territory by radical extremists.

The nomination of Prime Minster Boubou Cisse on April 22, the signing of a governance deal between the majority party and the opposition, and the formation of a broad-based government, marked a new phase in the peace process, Annadif said.

As these events have opened the way for political and institutional reforms, including the creation of a development zone in the north of Mali, he said the administration's return to the region promises to allow the population to access basic services, one of the key objectives of the peace deal.

However, the senior UN official, who also heads the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali known as MINUSMA, warned that this "ray of hope" can only be transformed into a real opportunity if there is a marked improvement in the security situation, particularly in the turbulent center of the country, scene of the attacks on the village of Sobane-Da earlier this month, and the Koulougon and Ogassagou killings in January and March.

In ending impunity from justice and the "vicious cycle," he said MINUSMA has made considerable efforts to establish facts in the cases of inter-ethnic and terror-related attacks, and has provided the government with recommendations for action.

Whereas the majority of MINUSMA troops formerly protected UN bases, he said now at least 70 percent of them are on the ground, protecting civilians and humanitarian aid convoys.

In concluding his speech, Annadif reiterated that Mali has reached a decisive turning point in the peace process, thanks to the work of MINUSMA, the engagement of the signatories to the peace process, and other partners.

He called on the Security Council to extend the mandate of MINUSMA, in order to consolidate the security and political gains made so far. Enditem

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