Mali expels the French envoy for “hostile and outrageous” statements News for armed groups

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Mali’s military government was “out of control” and illegitimate.

Mali gave the French ambassador 72 hours notice on Monday to leave the country after “hostile and outrageous” comments from the former colonial power France about its transitional government, according to a statement read on national television.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday that Mali’s military government was “out of control” amid escalating tensions between the West African country and its European partners after two coups.

Le Drian also called the military government illegitimate. French Defense Minister Florence Parley said on Saturday that French troops would not stay in Mali if the price was too high.

“The Mali government vigorously condemns and rejects these remarks, which run counter to the development of friendly relations between nations,” a statement read on state television.

“The government of the Republic of Mali has informed the national and international community that today … the French ambassador to Bamako, His Excellency Joel Meyer … has been informed of the government’s decision to leave the country within 72 hours.

There was no immediate comment from Paris.

French soldiers from the 2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment search a metal box during an operation to control the Gourma region during Operation Barkhane in Ndaki, MaliFrench troops have been present in Mali since 2013 [File: Benoit Tessier/Reuters]

France has had troops in Mali since 2013, when it intervened to repel armed groups advancing on the capital. Since then, the fighters have regrouped and are waging an increasingly bloody armed uprising in the Sahel region.

Relations between Mali and its former colonizer deteriorated this month when the military government returned to an agreement to hold elections in February and offered to retain power until 2025.

Rebel officers spearheaded a coup in August 2020 that toppled Mali’s elected leader, Ibrahim Bubakar Keita, who was facing angry protests over his failure to stop armed violence.

It has also deployed Russian private military contractors, which some European countries say is incompatible with their mission.

Last week, Mali called on Denmark to withdraw troops belonging to the country’s European task force, sparking a new crisis.

France asked Mali to let the Danish troops stay, and a spokesman for the Mali government told France to keep its “colonial reflexes” to itself.

Denmark is in full solidarity with France, “Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod tweeted on Friday.

European allies agreed on Friday to draw up plans within two weeks on how to continue the fight against armed groups in Mali, the Danish defense minister said.

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