France, partners to begin Mali military withdrawal

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PARIS, Feb 17 (Reuters) – France and its European partners involved in the fight against Islamist militants in Mali have decided to start the coordinated withdrawal of their military resources in the country, a joint statement said on Friday.

They agreed to set out plans on how to remain in the region, notably Niger and Gulf of Guinea countries by June 2022, the statement said.

Relations between Paris and Bamako have deteriorated since the military junta went back on an agreement to organise elections in February and proposed holding power until 2025. It has also deployed Russian private military contractors, which some European countries have said is incompatible with their mission.

“Due to multiple obstructions by the Malian transitional authorities, Canada and the European States operating alongside Operation Barkhane and within the Task Force Takuba deem that the political, operational and legal conditions are no longer met to effectively continue their current military engagement in the fight against terrorism in Mali,” the statement said.

The statement was issued by countries operating with France’s Barkhane counter-terrorism force and the Takuba mission, which includes some 14 European nations.

They “have thereof decided to commence the coordinated withdrawal of their respective military resources dedicated to these operations from Malian territory.”

Reporting by John Irish; editing by Richard Lough

Photo – A close up of the France’s Barkhane counter-terrorism operation badge in Africa’s Sahel region in Gao, northern Mali. EPA/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON / POOL MAXPPP

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