France, Mali At Odds Over Dialogue With Militants

France, Mali at odds over dialogue with militants

Bamako, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 26th Oct, 2020 ) :France and Mali differed on Monday over whether to talk to militants to help end the Sahel state's eight-year-old insurgency, with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian ruling the option out.

During a news conference in the capital Bamako, Le Drian distinguished between engaging with armed groups which had signed peace accords, and "terror groups".

"Things are simple," he said.

Le Drian's visit marks the first by a French politician since young army officers toppled president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on August 18.

Le Drian told AFP the reason for his visit was to "establish a relationship of trust with the new authorities".

After international pressure, Mali's military junta handed over to an interim government which is meant to stage elections within 18 months.

Le Drian said his position against dialogue was shared by United Nations Security Council and the G5 Sahel countries -- a regional anti-militant force which includes Mali.

But Mali's interim prime minister, Moctar Ouane, swiftly disagreed with him, in a sign of a policy rift between the Sahel state and France, the former colonial power.

He pointed out that a forum on Mali's crisis last year, gathering local leaders, had "very clearly indicated the need for an offer of dialogue with (militants) armed groups."Mali's coup came after waves of anti-government protests partly fuelled by Keita's failure to end the brutal insurgency.

Conflict has raged in Mali since 2012, and has killed thousands of soldiers and civilians.