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The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved Monday to extend the mandate of its peacekeeping force in Mali by one year, and called for a detailed long-term plan to relinquish security responsibilities and leave the West African nation.

The resolution adopted by the 15 members of the Council indicated that the priority of the peace mission continues to be to support the implementation of the peace agreement signed in 2015 by three parties: the government, a coalition of groups called Coordination of Movements of the Azawad that includes Arabs and Tuareg who seek autonomy in the north of the country, and a pro-government militia known as the Platform.

The resolution recognized “some progress” in the past six months, but expressed impatience at the delays in full implementation of the agreement.

Mali has been in crisis since a revolt in 2012 led mutinous soldiers to overthrow who had been president for a decade. The resulting power vacuum led to an Islamist insurgency and an intervention led by the French government that ousted jihadists from power in 2013.

But insurgents continue to have an active presence in the nation, which is also threatened by extremists affiliated with the Islamic State group movement. Radicals have been moving from the arid north to more populated areas since 2015, fueling hostilities and deadly ethnic violence.

The resolution stresses that “lasting peace and security in the Sahel region will not be achieved without a combination of political, security and development efforts that benefit all regions of Mali.”

The Security Council extended the mandate of the force of 15,600 members until June 30, 2021, and urged the signatories of the peace agreement to act according to priorities before that date, including the disarmament and demobilization of armed groups and their reintegration into the reformed national security forces. In addition, he asked for a constitutional reform and for other matters to be resolved in order to hold regional elections.

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State Department slams China for sanctioning US senators

The State Department is blasting China’s decision to place sanctions on a group of major US senators and other lawmakers, calling it an effort by the Communist nation to “extend authoritarian rule beyond its borders.”

“We condemn indictments against American citizens for exercising the right to free expression. We reject Beijing’s attempt to extend authoritarian rule beyond its borders,” a State Department spokesperson told The Post when reached for comment.

“These measures are not for national security but intended to intimidate and silence free speech both inside and outside Hong Kong.”

The statement came one day after Beijing announced it was imposing sanctions on 11 US citizens, including six prominent US lawmakers, for their response to “Hong Kong-related issues.”

“In response to those wrong US behaviors, China has decided to impose sanctions on individuals who have behaved egregiously on Hong Kong-related issues,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Monday.

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Among those targeted were Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), as well as Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ).

Beijing’s sanctions did not include any Trump administration officials, and Zhao did not specify what the sanctions would entail.

Monday’s move came in response to the US imposition of sanctions on 11 Hong Kong and Chinese officials accused of curtailing political freedoms in Hong Kong, a former British colony that was handed back to the Communist nation in 1997 under terms of semi-autonomy.

Under an executive order signed by President Trump last Friday, the US imposed sanctions on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam as well as the city’s current and former police chiefs — freezing any US assets owned by those people and generally barring Americans from doing business with them.

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The US lawmakers targeted by Beijing have been vocal critics of a national security law the Communist nation imposed on Hong Kong, which has maintained a semi-autonomous system separate from that of mainland China.

In June, China approved a contentious national security law that permits authorities to crack down on “subversive and secessionist activity” in Hong Kong.

The legislation was passed amid warnings and criticism both in Hong Kong and internationally that it would be used to curb opposition voices.

Speaking to The Post, the State Department spokesperson slammed the law itself, saying, “Beijing’s imposition of the National Security Law on Hong Kong was not related to security, but rather is intended to silence dissent and restrict freedom of expression.”

Filed under china ,  foreign policy ,  hong kong ,  sanctions ,  state department ,  8/11/20

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