PARIS (Reuters) – France on Thursday announced it was suspending joint military operations with local troops in Mali as part of efforts to pressure the military junta to reestablish a civilian-led government.
The Malian army arrested interim President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane last week and forced them to resign, derailing a transition to democratic elections after another military coup last August.
Former Vice President Assimi Goita, a colonel who led the August coup and last week’s revolt, was declared president on Friday.
West African regional bloc ECOWAS and the African Union suspended Mali from their organizations and threatened sanctions.[nL2N2NJ38M}[nL2N2NJ38M}[nL2N2NJ38M}[nL2N2NJ38M}
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“Pending these guarantees, France, after having informed its partners and the Malian authorities, has decided to suspend, as a precaution and temporarily, the joint military operations with the Malian forces, as well as the national advisory missions which are beneficial ”, indicated the Ministry of the Armed Forces. said in a statement.
French forces will continue to operate separately in the country and the decision will be reassessed in the coming days, he added.
A spokesperson for the Malian army declined to comment on what he called a political issue.
France, the former colonial power, has more than 5,000 troops conducting counterinsurgency operations against Islamist militants in Mali and throughout the Sahel, an arid region of West Africa just below of the Sahara desert.
Activists linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have increased their presence in the region, rendering large swathes of territory ungovernable and fueling ethnic violence, particularly in Mali and Burkina Faso.
While France has hailed some success in recent months, the situation is extremely fragile and Paris is increasingly frustrated endlessly in view of its operations.
Speaking to Journal du Dimanche, President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday that the junta’s latest takeover and any sign it was considering negotiating with Islamist militants could lead to a French withdrawal.
“I sent them the message that I would not stay with a country where there is no longer democratic legitimacy or transition,” he said.
(Report by Tangi Salaun in Paris Additional report by John Irish in Paris and Paul Lorgerie in Bamako Written by John Irish Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis)
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