Wary Europe calls for 'urgent action' as Prodi takes on Sahel issue
BRUSSELS - The EU's foreign policy Chief Catherine Ashton called Wednesday for "urgent action" in the Sahel as she welcomed the nomination of former Italian premier Romano Prodi as UN special envoy to the region.
"While the political, humanitarian and security situation in the Sahel continues to deteriorate, urgent actions are needed to enhance international coordination and engagement in support of national and regional efforts to address the root cause of the complex crisis in Mali and the Sahel," Ashton said.
Prodi was named Tuesday to coordinate UN efforts to finalise and apply a regional integration strategy for the region on the southern rim of the Sahara Desert.
"The European Union is committed to working closely with Mr Prodi in his new capacity," Ashton said in a statement. "Prodi has shown determination to support democracy and peace in Europe and beyond. His engagement in favour of international cooperation is particularly recognised in Africa."
The decision to name a special envoy for the Sahel was taken during a high level meeting on the situation in the region and in Mali, which was held in late September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
Bamako and its West African neighbours want the United Nations to give its blessing to a pan-African military intervention in northern Mali, which is controlled by Islamist extremists.
France has urged the UN Security Council to quickly adopt a resolution clearing the way for a UN green light to such a mission.
The EU will take part in talks in Bamako at the end of next week on the situation. Foreign ministers from the 27-nation bloc are also expected to address the issue at talks in Luxembourg on Monday.