By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - China said on Thursday it wants the United Nations Security Council to impose an arms embargo on criminal gangs in Haiti as the 15-member body negotiates a resolution to extend a U.N. political mission in the strife-torn Caribbean country.
The council is due to vote on Friday when the mandate for the U.N. mission expires. But China, backed by Russia, has raised issues with the text drafted by the United States and Mexico.
"The situation in Haiti can't be worse," said a spokesperson for the Chinese mission to the United Nations in New York.
"An embargo of weapons against criminal gangs is the minimum the council should do," said the spokesperson, adding that anything short of that would "not only disappoint the Haitian people, but also means a lost opportunity" for the council.
Gang violence has soared since the assassination last year of President Jovenel Moise, which created a political vacuum that criminal groups have taken advantage of to expand control over territory.
The initial draft text expresses concern about illicit trafficking and diversion of arms and asks the U.N. mission to work with the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime to support Haitian authorities "in combating illicit financial flows as well as trafficking and diversion of arms and related materiel."
Diplomats said the United States and Mexico plan to circulate a revised draft text.
A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by China, Russia, the United States, France or Britain to be adopted.
A senior Security Council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said more work was needed before the council could consider imposing any kind of arms embargo.
"If we were to move in that direction, we need to get them right. You need to you need to have a clear understanding of what exactly we want to accomplish," said the diplomat, noting the council would also need to know exactly who to target.
The U.N. political mission is in Haiti to work with the government to strengthen political stability and good governance, human rights protection and justice reform and to help with the holding of free and fair elections.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has asked the council to renew the mission for 12 months. The initial draft resolution by Mexico and the United States proposed a 15-month extension. China said it does not support 15 months.
In a report to the Security Council last month, Guterres said the holding of elections in Haiti by the end of this year "seems unlikely." China would also like the council to push Haiti to agree a political transition plan within six months, said the Chinese U.N. mission spokesperson.
U.N. peacekeepers were deployed to Haiti in 2004 after a rebellion led to the ouster and exile of then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Peacekeeping troops left in 2017 and were replacing by U.N. police, who left in 2019.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)