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Mali pulls out of defense accords with France

The Malian authorities declared on Monday that the country is pulling out of the existing defense accords with France, citing “flagrant violations” of its sovereignty by French forces deployed in Mali.

The military government in Bamako had repeatedly warned Paris that it could end military cooperation between the two countries.

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In a televised address on Monday, Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga explained the move by saying: “for some time now, the government of the Republic of Mali notes with regret a profound deterioration in military cooperation with France.” Among other things, Maiga mentioned France’s decision to end joint operations with the Malian military last June, as well as Macron’s announcement in February that Paris was withdrawing its troops.

He went on to cite several cases of what he described as violations of Mali’s sovereignty by French forces.

In April, Bamako claimed that French drones had violated Mali’s airspace to spy on its military dozens of times since the start of the year.

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While officials in Bamako said they had notified Paris of their decision on Monday afternoon, there has been no official reaction from the French government yet.

Relations between France and Mali have steadily deteriorated since the military government came to power in the West African country in August 2020.

France, which ruled Mali from the late 19th century until 1960, has accused the new government of creating “multiple obstructions” that effectively prevented the continuation of a joint counter-terrorism operation in the country involving the French contingent.

The agreements, now officially nixed by the Malian government, date back to 2013-14. Paris launched Operation Serval in Mali in 2013. A year later it was replaced by the larger Operation Barkhane, aimed at tackling insurgency in the whole of the Sahel region, which – besides Mali – spans Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mauritania.

Announcing the troop withdrawal in mid-February, President Emmanuel Macron said that “victory against terror is not possible if it’s not supported by the state itself,” suggesting that officials in Bamako were no longer interested in fighting Islamists. The French leader also stressed that he did not see the pullout as an admission of failure on the part of Paris.

In 2021, Mali invited a private Russian paramilitary organization to assist in fighting the terrorists.

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