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The United Nations Security Council on Friday voted unanimously to extend its UN Integrated Office in Haiti for another year but did not back a China-led provision to include some bans on transfers of small arms and light weapons.
The motion presents another instance of China attempting to increase its involvement on the island.
Violence erupted across Haiti following last year’s assassination of President Jovenel Moise. Authorities have failed to identify and arrest those involved in planning and financing the assassination while gangs moved to aggressively expand their territory during the period of absent leadership.
The UN’s mandate will remain in effect until July 15, 2023, with a focus on assisting the establishment of a locally-developed and led political process that will allow for peaceful, free and fair presidential elections.
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Mexico’s UN ambassador, Juan Ramón de la Fuente Ramírez, said the mandate sends “a clear message” that the necessary Haitian parties need to reach an agreement that will lead to a return of institutional order.
Haiti’s government must provide an update on progress toward these goals by Oct. 17 of this year.
The United States and Mexico submitted a resolution that aims to enhance the Haitian National Police’s capability to combat gang violence and coordinate support among the international community to address illegal arms trafficking.
China wanted more aggressive actions and requested a wholesale embargo of small arms movement to “non-state actors engaged in or supporting gang violence” within Haiti.
“This is a necessary step,” Zhang Jun, the permanent representative of the People’s Republic of China to the world body, said of the measure. China had also pushed for a wider slate of actions, including improved police capacity and stronger port and border measures as part of cracking down on gun trafficking, which he pinpointed as the greatest driver of the continued violence.
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Zhang also urged all countries to strengthen arms export controls, which he said China would pursue with “relevant countries.”
China’s greater interest in the country may have arisen due to the fact that the previous Haitian leaders recognized Taiwan. Some analysts speculate that Beijing could try to influence any political transition to convince the country to change its stance on the Taiwan issue, according to Reuters.
Beijing insists that its harder stance on Haiti has nothing to do with this recognition but instead a desire to take “meaningful” action.
“The situation in Haiti can’t be worse,” a spokeswoman for the Chinese mission to the UN told the AFP. “As we conduct the negotiations here, the gang violence is escalating in Port-au-Prince.”
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“An embargo of weapons against criminal gangs are the minimum the council should do in response to the appalling situation,” she added.
Zhang said he hoped that the failure to pass stronger measures “will not send any wrong signals to the gangs” and that China would continue to push for an embargo.
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The US has said it is not opposed to an embargo, but it requires a sanctions committee or a group of UN experts to oversee it.
It would “need more work,” a diplomatic source told the AFP.