US, China at odds over UN push to fund African peacekeeping

A push at the United Nations to secure financing for peace operations led by the African Union won strong backing from China on Tuesday but the United States poured cold water on the proposal.

Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea and Ivory Coast - the three African members of the Security Council - have presented a draft resolution that would allow UN financing for AU peace missions on a case-by-case basis.

France and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres back the initiative that would provide the African Union with a major influx of funds and strengthen its role in dealing with conflicts on the continent.

At a council meeting chaired by China, the United States, the top financial contributor to UN peacekeeping, said it was "premature" to agree to regular UN funding of new AU peace operations.

"It's too soon to make decisions about changing the UN's peacekeeping relationship with the AU when the AU is still working on its internal reforms," said US Deputy Ambassador Jonathan Cohen.

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Cohen argued there were "serious and unanswered questions" about UN authority over any future AU-led peace operation, which could have a robust offensive mandate to tackle insurgents.

The United Nations must ensure that African troops adhere to high performance standards, maintaining good conduct and discipline and respecting human rights, he said.

Several peacekeeping missions, notably in the Central African Republic and South Sudan, have been plagued with serious allegations of misconduct including cases of rape of civilians they are mandated to protect.

While the United States supports more cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union on peacekeeping, the US diplomat cautioned against any "rushed process to make a decision" on the major shift.

China, the number two contributor to UN peacekeeping, threw its weight behind the initiative, saying it would buttress the AU's "silencing the guns by 2030" plan to end conflict.

"China supports the UN in providing sustainable and predictable funding for the AU-led peace operations," said Chinese Ambassador Ma Zhaoxu.

UN peacekeeping is already tightly focused on Africa, with half the 14 missions deployed on the continent, including the five biggest operations.

African countries provide nearly half of the UN peacekeepers deployed worldwide.

The push to turn over peacekeeping to the African Union could take a major step next month when the council is expected to vote on the draft resolution put forward by the three African countries.

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