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Mali Junta Seeks Review of Defense Accord With France

Mali has asked France for a review of bilateral defense accords against the backdrop of growing tensions between Paris and the ruling junta in Bamako, a French diplomat said Monday.

The diplomat told AFP that France was “examining” the request, without detailing its contents.

Malian Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga on Saturday said on state television that the accords were “unbalanced”, remarking that Mali “cannot even overfly its territory without France’s permission”.

Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop later told French news channel France 24 that Bamako had submitted suggested amendments to Paris.

A military operation launched by France in January 2013 to fight jihadists in Mali — first called Serval, then Barkhane — falls under the bilateral accord reached in March 2013.

Meanwhile, bilateral relations have been strained over the presence of Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group in Mali and French moves to reorganize its military presence in the country.

France has thousands of troops in Mali and neighboring Sahel countries in West Africa as part of an anti-jihadist force.

Last week, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France planned to stay in Mali, “but not under any conditions.”

Last week Mali’s regional neighbors closed their common borders after the Economic Community of West African States slapped new sanctions on Bamako for its failure to stick to a timetable for returning to civilian rule.

Even after years of a foreign troop presence, jihadists operating in the Sahel between Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso have continued with deadly incursions against both security forces and civilians.

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