UN peacekeeping mission in Mali regains flight clearance

United Nations, Jan 21 (IANS) The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali has regained flight clearance from the authorities and can restart air operations in the country, a top official said.

“We are happy to report that the peacekeeping mission in Mali tells us that, following fruitful discussions with the country’s authorities, they are now able to restart air operations,” Xinhua news agency quoted Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, as saying.

Today, they are working on preparations to restart these operations and the actual flights are scheduled to resume on Friday, he said.

Earlier this week, Dujarric had said that all regular flights were grounded as the UN was trying to get clarification on new procedures put in place by the Malian authorities.

“There were new procedures put in place for us to get clearance for our flights. At this point, all (regular) flights are grounded as we try to get clarification on these procedures. Because they make it extremely difficult for the UN to fulfill its mandates. So we are continuing our discussions with the authorities,” he said.

Dujarric said the UN Secretary-General had a phone call on Wednesday with the interim president of Mali, Col. Assimi Goita.

The spokesman said the flights might be part of the conversation. But the issue was resolved locally in discussions between the peacekeeping mission, known by its French acronym as MINUSMA, and the relevant government authorities in Mali.

Guterres’ call with Goita was focused on getting the transition in Mali back on track, “within what the Secretary-General has described as an acceptable calendar”, he said.

The spokesman refused to say whether the Malian leader has committed himself to a specific date for elections.

“They talked about the transition and what the secretary-general has already referred publicly as an acceptable calendar. Was there a date committed to and a date given, I do not know,” said Dujarric, adding that only Malian authorities can make such an announcement.

–IANS

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