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US pledges an additional US$ 100M for multinational force awaiting deployment to violence-hit Haiti


Kingston, Mar 12: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday announced an additional US$ 100 million to finance the deployment of a multinational force mission to Haiti following a meeting with Caribbean leaders in Jamaica to halt the country's violent crisis.

Blinken also announced another US$ 33 million in humanitarian aid and the creation of a joint proposal agreed on by Caribbean leaders and Haitian stakeholders that would expedite the creation of a “presidential college.”

He said the college would take “concrete steps” he did not identify to meet the needs of Haitian people and enable the pending deployment of the multinational force to be led by Kenya.

The joint proposal has the backing of members of Caricom, a regional trade bloc that held Monday's urgent meeting.

“I think we can all agree: Haiti is on the brink of disaster,” said Guyanese President Irfaan Ali. “We must take quick and decisive action.” He said that he is “very confident that we have found commonality” to support what he described as a Haitian-led and -owned solution.

Meanwhile, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said the meeting was a work in progress.

“It is clear that Haiti is now at a tipping point,” he said. “We are deeply distressed that it is already too late for too many who have lost far too much at the hands of criminal gangs.”

Blinken met with Caribbean leaders in Jamaica on Monday in an urgent push to solve the spiraling crisis in Haiti, while pressure grows on Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry to resign or agree to a transitional council.

The closed-door meeting did not include Henry, who has been locked out of his own country while traveling abroad, due to surging unrest and violence by criminal gangs who have overrun much of Haiti's capital and closed down its main airports.

Henry remained in Puerto Rico and was taking steps to return to Haiti once feasible, according to a brief statement from the US territory's Department of State.

While leaders met behind closed doors, Jimmy Chérizier, considered Haiti's most powerful gang leader, told reporters that if the international community continues down the current road, “it will plunge Haiti into further chaos.” “We Haitians have to decide who is going to be the head of the country and what model of government we want,” said Chérizier, a former elite police officer leader of a gang federation known as G9 Family and Allies. “We are also going to figure out how to get Haiti out of the misery it's in now.”

The meeting in Jamaica was organised by members of a regional trade bloc known as Caricom, which for months has pressed for a transitional government in Haiti while protests in the country have demanded Henry's resignation.

“The international community must work together with Haitians towards a peaceful political transition,” US Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols wrote on X, formerly Twitter. Nichols will attend the meeting.

Concerns remain that a long-sought solution will remain elusive. Caricom said in a statement on Friday announcing the urgent meeting in Jamaica that while “we are making considerable progress, the stakeholders are not yet where they need to be.” Mia Mottley, Barbados' prime minister, said that up to 90 per cent of proposals that Haitian stakeholders have “put on the table” are similar. These include an “urgent need” to create a presidential council to help identify a new prime minister to establish a government.

Her comments were briefly streamed by Caricom, in what appeared to have been a mistake, and then were abruptly cut off.

The meeting was held as powerful gangs continued to attack key government targets across Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince. Since February 29, gunmen have burned police stations, closed the main international airports and raided the country's two biggest prisons, releasing more than 4,000 inmates.

Scores of people have been killed, and more than 15,000 are homeless after fleeing neighbourhoods raided by gangs. Food and water are dwindling as stands and stores selling to impoverished Haitians run out of goods. The main port in Port-au-Prince remains closed, stranding dozens of containers with critical supplies.

Henry landed in Puerto Rico last week after being denied entry into the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

When the attacks began, Henry was in Kenya pushing for the UN-backed deployment of a police force from the East African country that has been delayed by a court ruling.

A growing number of people are demanding Henry's resignation. He has not made any public comment since the attacks began.

The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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