West African nations lift sanctions imposed on Mali

West African leaders have lifted all sanctions imposed on Mali with immediate effect following the agreement on restoring the constitutional order, a statement from the regional body Ecowas said on Sunday.

The consultations between Mali junta leaders and Economic Community Of West African States’ authorities “resulted in the signing of a framework agreement on Friday, April 6 2012 for the restoration of constitutional order in Mali,” Ecowas said.

“As a consequence, the chairperson of authority [Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara], with the consent of his peers, has decided to lift all the sanctions imposed on Mali with immediate effect,” said the statement signed by Ouattara.

Ecowas on Monday imposed a total embargo on Mali, a country of 15-million people, closing all borders except for humanitarian aid, denying access to Ecowas ports, and freezing Malian bank accounts.

With regard to the armed rebellion in the north of Mali, Ouattara reiterated the position of the Ecowas leaders which demanded strict respect for the territorial integrity of Mali.

He said the committee of Ecowas chiefs of defence staff, which met in Abidjan on Thursday, had “adopted preparatory measures for the rapid deployment of Ecowas troops to counter any eventuality”.

The statement, which did not give details, said these measures would be presented to Ecowas’ mediation and security council.
World powers on Saturday welcomed the junta’s decision to step aside ahead of elections, as the man named to handle the transition, the speaker of Parliament Dioncounda Traore, flew back into the country on Saturday.

The junior officers who seized power last month have agreed with Ecowas to give up power in return for an amnesty deal and a lifting of sanctions that the regional body had imposed on landlocked Mali.

The deal, brokered late on Friday, came amid growing concern at the situation in northern Mali, which is now torn between the Tuareg rebels who have declared independence and Islamists determined to impose sharia law.

The junta agreed to a timetable for a return to constitutional rule and elections following their March 22 overthrow of President Amadou Toumani Toure, a power grab that sparked international condemnation.

Under the agreement, Traore will be the new interim president, ruling with a transitional government until elections are held.
The accord states that Traore will have the task of organising a presidential election within 40 days, though given the “exceptional circumstances”, this may be delayed.

Traore has praised the junta’s decision to return the country to democracy. — AFP

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