Trump paves way for sanctions in Mali conflict

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US President Donald Trump issued an executive order Friday laying the groundwork for sanctions against those who have exacerbated the “deteriorating situation in Mali,” the White House said.

The decree will freeze assets and suspend travel for “individuals or entities that seek to undermine the peace, security or stability of Mali,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

Mali is struggling to quell unrest that began in 2012 in the north and spread to other parts of the country, despite aid from French and UN forces.

“Extremist groups are exploiting ethnic tensions and expanding their networks well outside Mali’s borders,” Pompeo added, without specifying who might be targeted by the sanctions.

A US senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that anyone sanctioned “can no longer access the United States financial system.”

Last week Washington imposed sanctions on an Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group in Mali that carried out deadly attacks on the country’s armed forces.

In 2015 a peace agreement was signed with some armed factions, but parts of Mali remain beyond the control of the government and the armed forces.

The UN mission to Mali, known as MINUSMA, “has faced more violence and danger than any other peacekeeping mission in UN history,” Pompeo said.

The Trump administration has signaled its disinterest in such missions by cutting its financial contribution to UN peacekeeping and pushing for major cuts in blue helmet operations worldwide.

In 2017 the United Nations introduced sanctions against individuals accused of obstructing the country’s peace process.