France says Mali’s decision to quit defence accords won’t affect withdrawal plans

Mali’s decision to renounce a military cooperation agreement with France after it fell out with the ruling junta is “unjustified” and would not affect the military withdrawal, a French foreign ministry spokesman said Tuesday.

Paris “considers that this decision is unjustified and absolutely contests any violation of the bilateral legal framework”, the spokesman told reporters.

After several weeks of threats, Bamako said Monday it would quit the 2014 accords because of “flagrant violations” of its sovereignty by French troops.

The former colonial power has begun removing soldiers belonging to its Barkhane force from Mali following two coups in the country and rising tensions with the military-controlled government.

“France will continue the withdrawal in good order of its military presence in Mali, in line with the commitments it has made to its partners,” the spokesman said.

The heated exchanges between the two capitals came as diplomats said the UN Security Council had held a closed-door session on Mali on Tuesday at Russia’s request.

Mali had complained to the global body about alleged violations of its airspace by French forces.

The French-Malian defence accords were signed in 2014 after Paris intervened to stop a jihadist offensive.

But since a first military coup in 2020, France’s relationship with Mali cooled as the junta resisted international pressure to set a timetable for a swift return to democratic, civilian rule.

Paris has also objected to the regime’s rapprochement with the Kremlin, accusing Bamako of allowing in mercenaries from Kremlin-linked security firm Wagner.

Vast swathes of Mali lie beyond government control because of the jihadist insurgency, which began in 2012 before spreading three years later to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

The conflict led to thousands of military and civilian deaths and forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.

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