China offers troops for UN Mali mission
China has offered to send more than 500 troops to the UN force fighting Islamist militants in Mali, its biggest proposed contribution to UN peacekeeping ever.
2:32PM BST 23 May 2013
The move is being seen as a goodwill gesture to France and other Western powers to soothe some of the tensions over Syria, and to strengthen Beijing's relations in Africa, where it is a major buyer of oil and other resources.
France, which launched military action in the west African nation in January, hopes to hand over to UN peacekeepers in July. More than 6,500 African troops are already in Mali but the United Nations is seeking at least 3,000 more.
"It is a significant move by China," one UN diplomat told AFP.
At least 155 of the Chinese troops are expected to be engineers. Talks are underway, according to diplomatic sources.
China declined to confirm the deployment yesterday but said Beijing supports the Malian government, the United Nations and others in their efforts to secure the country.
08 Mar 2013
16 May 2013
"We hope the international community will continue to help Mali realise national reconciliation and stability, and China will also play a positive role in this regard," said a spokesman.
China rejected UN peacekeeping missions as an unwarranted interference when it joined the United Nations in 1971.
It sent its first peacekeepers in 1992 and today fields 2,000 troops in missions around the world, meaning it has more troops in UN forces than Britain and the other three permanent Security Council members. However, its peacekeepers have not taken part in military operations, and diplomats said China would likely be reluctant to put troops in the line of fire in Mali.
The UN force in Mali, to be known under the acronym MINUSMA, will take over from French troops who repelled an advance by Islamist guerrillas previously in contro of the northern half of the country for 10 months.
The rebels are now holed up in desert and mountain hideouts.
China has recently said it would "continue to do what we can to provide support and assistance to African countries to jointly address the (terrorist) threat.”