Ban Hosts Special Mali Session at UNGA

African conflicts came under the spotlight Saturday at the U.N. General Assembly, including at a special high level meeting on Mali.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday opened a special session on Mali saying the international community had come together to support the country’s political process because it is the key to Mali’s stability.

“Peace and stability must return to Mali, so that refugees may return to their homes; so that human rights may be protected, and so that public services may be reestablished,” said Ban, addressing the summit in French.

He warned that the security situation remains extremely fragile, particularly in the north, where fighting among armed groups has continued despite agreements to stop.

Meeting participants, which included the French foreign minister, expressed strong support for peace talks under way in Algiers between the government and rebel groups.

Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said obstacles to peace are surmountable with political willingness from both sides.

“The government is prepared to discuss any option which could find the best institutional formula for shared governance and which would promote the effective, genuine development for the communities concerned,” he said.

At the General Assembly annual debate, the Central African Republic’s transitional president, Catherine Samba-Panza, spoke of the sectarian violence that has displaced hundreds of thousands in her country this year.

Welcoming the deployment this month of 7,000 U.N. peacekeepers, Samba-Panza said security gains require strong national security and defense forces, before formally requesting a review of the arms embargo against her country.

On Thursday, U.N. chief Ban hosted a high level meeting on the conflict in South Sudan. President Salva Kiir failed to show up at the session, but touched on the political problems between himself and rival Riek Machar, telling the General Assembly that his rival had staged a coup.

China, which has extensive investments in South Sudan’s oil industry, expressed its concern about the continuing instability.

“The two sides of the conflict in South Sudan should immediately effect a ceasefire, actively conduct political dialogue in the overall interests of the people in South Sudan, and, through the mediation of IGAD, work with all ethnic groups and parties in the country to speedily reach a fair and balanced solution and achieve national reconciliation and ethnic unity,” said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

The United Nations warned this week that 4 million South Sudanese are food insecure and 50,000 children could die before the end of the year if the violence does not stop.

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