Ban seeks clarification of UN role in Nepal’s peace process

July 15th, 2008 - 2:07 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, July 15 (IANS) Asked by Nepal’s government to extend the term of the UN political mission assisting in the thorny peace process, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has suggested that the government clarify the role the world body is to play since its current mandate is not a key issue. With the term of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), that is monitoring the arms and combatants of the Maoists, nearing its end July 23, Nepal sent a formal letter to the UN chief earlier this month asking for a six-month extension.

However, in his report to the UN Security Council, made public Tuesday, Ban has said that the letter from Nepal’s interim government “lacks the clarity that is required for me to recommend a continuing United Nations presence in the form of a special political mission”.

The UN chief has asked his Special Representative in Nepal, Ian Martin, who also heads UNMIN, to seek further clarification from the new Maoist-led government, which is expected to be formed by this week. The clarification is about “the scope of support it would like to receive from UNMIN” before Martin submits his formal recommendation to the UN Security Council on the future of UNMIN.

With the UNSC scheduled to meet Friday, Ban has asked Nepal to send the clarification before that.

Failing that, he has said that he would recommend a one-month extension of UNMIN in order to give the new government time to respond to his request.

Ban also said that his Special Representative has been made aware of a “broad consensus among the political parties and civil society that a continuing United Nations political presence and monitoring of the management of arms and armed personnel remain important to the completion of the peace process, and in particular to a successful transition regarding the integration and rehabilitation of Maoist army personnel”.

The key requirement, according to him, is “not the continuation of monitoring arrangements so much as the transition to a durable and permanent solution”.

The UN chief said monitoring of arms and armed personnel should continue to be provided within the framework of a special political mission which can continue to offer the necessary support for the completion of the peace process.

Meanwhile, UNMIN has begun reducing the size of its staff in Nepal.

Ban said there would be an at least 70 percent reduction.

The Electoral Assistance Office, that monitored the April election, has already been closed. The Arms Monitoring Office would have about 90 arms monitors, which is less than half the previous authorized strength.

The Office of Civil Affairs would also be closed at the end of the current mandate as would all regional offices.

The Gender, Social Affairs and Child Protection Sections would also be closed, except for the retention of two Child Protection Officers until minors have been discharged from the cantonments.

UNMIN’s presence in Nepal has been a bone of contention for India, which is averse to any political role for the world body in its close neighbourhood.

India had originally kept the UN out of Nepal’s peace process but yielded two years ago when the Maoist violence and political turmoil started going out of hand and affecting India’s border areas.

However, India had blocked UNMIN’s earlier urging for a greater role in Nepal’s peace process and was confident that the mission would end in July.

UNMIN also owes its new lease of life to the Maoists, who have been enraged by the delay in the formation of a new government led by them and have been accusing New Delhi of fuelling the disruptions.

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