EU foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels to discuss the world’s major crisis zones. They have sharpened sanctions against North Korea and approved the start of an EU military training mission in war-torn Mali.
The European Union expanded sanctions against North Korea on Monday, nearly one week after the reclusive communist country detonated a nuclear weapon in contravention of United Nations' resolutions.
The 27-member bloc agreed to embargo the delivery of equipment that could be used for Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs.
North Korea successfully launched a satellite into orbit last December. The launch heightened concern among Western nations that Pyongyang wants to develop ballistic missiles which can carry a nuclear payload.
EU foreign ministers also agreed to forbid the trade in North Korean government bonds, gold, precious metals and diamonds. North Korean banks are also banned from opening branches in the EU and vice versa.
The expanded sanctions also add further individuals and North Korean companies to a blacklist that imposes travel bans and freezes bank accounts.
“That's the answer to a nuclear program that is not only a danger to the region, but also to the worldwide security architecture,” said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (pictured above) as the EU meeting opened in Brussels. “North Korea has violated international law with its rocket and nuclear tests.”
Training mission to begin in Mali
EU foreign ministers also set their sights on Mali, agreeing to begin the deployment of a military training mission to the war-torn, divided West African nation. An advance mission of 70 EU soldiers is already in the capital, Bamako, and is expected to be doubled by mid-March, according to General Patrick de Rousiers, the chairman of the EU's military committee.
By the start of April, some 200 European military advisors will be training four Malian battalions of 650 men each.
The European Union Training Mission in Mali (EUTM) currently has a mandate of 15 months and has an upward limit of 500 soldiers. The mission is expected to cost some 12.3 million euros ($16.4 million).
Germany is contributing 40 military trainers and 40 medical personnel to the EUTM. Some 20 European nations are participating, including non-EU member Norway.
The goal of the mission is to reform Mali's military. In March last year, it launched a coup against then-President Amadou Toumani Toure in March 2012. That coup then precipitated a lightening fast advance by ethnic Tuareg rebels and their Islamist allies, who declared northern Mali to be independent.
The Islamists, who have reported ties to al Qaeda, then pushed out their nationalist Tuareg allies and began implementing Shariah law in the north.
In January, France launched a military intervention in Mali to prevent the Islamists from advancing toward Bamako, Mali's capital. Since then, Paris and its West African allies have pushed the Islamists out of the major northern Malian population centers.
The EU training mission will reportedly focus on human rights and the rule of law in addition to military skills. Malian troops have been accused of human rights abuses as they have sought to retake the north from Islamist rebels.
slk/ipj (AFP, dpa, Reuters)