The State Department is pushing back against the notion that a U.S. resolution at the United Nations proposing the deployment of a rapid reaction force to Haiti is in peril, with a senior administration official stating Wednesday that he expects the dimensions of a force to be settled by early November.
The United States is proposing that a multilateral force, led by another country, be deployed to Haiti with urgency to help Haiti’s police break the stranglehold of gangs on its major ports and roadways, fueling the country’s worst economic, political and humanitarian crisis in decades. The Haitian government and U.N. Secretary General António Guterres requested military intervention earlier this month after a powerful gang alliance blocked the country’s main terminal, leading to food, fuel and water shortages.
Sources told McClatchy and the Miami Herald this week that the U.S. resolution at the U.N. Security Council was imperiled, with no country stepping up to lead the mission and with several countries, including Russia and China, expressing skepticism over the invocation of Chapter 7 powers, which authorize the use of force under the U.N. charter and open the door to a possible return of a peacekeeping mission.
But as U.S. officials hold out hope for Security Council passage, they are also planning contingencies for a multilateral force that would enter Haiti without formal U.N. authorization. A fact-finding delegation from Canada, which has been holding conversations about the request, is expected to visit Port-au-Prince this week to discuss the crisis.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken also is planning to visit Canada on Thursday and Friday with Assistant Secretary of State Brian A. Nichols, where he will meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly. Haiti is among the topics high on the agenda.
“We see a recognition that the international community needs to act to help the Haitian people to respond to the call of the Haitian Prime Minister and cabinet, and the (U.N.) Secretary General, to address the security situation, the cholera outbreak, food insecurity and all the other challenges that the Haitian people face right now,” Nichols told reporters on Wednesday.
Nichols said the multinational force being envisioned would be composed mostly of police, with some military components.
A number of countries have the skills to do that, including Canada, he said. But Nichols acknowledged that “the country that will lead that effort has not been determined.”
“I’ve talked to dozens of partner nations around the world about the situation in Haiti, and there is strong support for a multinational force,” he said. “The desire to contribute in whatever ways that nations feel that they can be helpful I think is very widespread in our hemisphere and beyond.”
While members of the Security Council have voiced their concerns about the escalation of gang violence in Haiti and the deepening of the humanitarian crisis, including a resurgence in cholera, they have also expressed concerns about deploying foreign forces to help. For Caribbean nations, for example, the hesitancy stems from the lack of details of the make-up of the force in the resolution penned by the U.S. and Mexico. For others, such as Russia and China, there are concerns that such a deployment could once more open the door to an expensive peacekeeping mission in Haiti that members would need to financially support.
A Canadian delegation is expected to visit Port-au-Prince this week and meet with Haitians about the crisis.
“Canada is an incredibly capable partner across a whole host of areas. Canada has incredible development skills, and has a very capable armed forces as well as a national police force,” Nichols said. “Those are important skills in the international community, and more broadly, it is a respected nation and leader on the full range of issues.”
Canada has been speaking to members of the Caribbean community about the request from Haiti’s government — supported by Guterres — for a rapid reaction force to immediately be deployed to help the Haiti National Police. But while Joly and Trudeau have publicly pushed for sanctions against those fueling the violence, they have been mum about whether they would be willing to lead a force, despite their ongoing financial support and training of the Haiti National Police.
Nichols was optimistic that Blinken’s trip and ongoing conversations on the world stage will help bring relief to Haiti.
“How that conversation moves forward, about who brings what to the table, is ongoing and active,” Nichols said. “I’m very confident that this will move forward in a holistic way that will provide a complete solution to this challenge. As each nation looks at its role, it’s also looking at what are others bringing to the table. These are active conversations.”
“As the discussion of the resolution in the Security Council moves forward in the coming days, the leadership of the force will become clear, and I am confident that we will have something in early November — both the resolution and leadership for the force,” Nichols said.
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