UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 25 (Reuters) – Mali has asked a private Russian military company to help it fight the insurgents, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the United Nations on Saturday.
Mali’s one-year-old military junta is set to strike a deal to recruit Russian private military contractors from the Wagner Group, sources told Reuters, sparking opposition from France, who said that it was “incompatible” with a continued French presence in the West African state. . Read more
“They are fighting terrorism, moreover, and they have turned to a private Russian military company due to the fact that, if I understood correctly, France wants to considerably reduce its military component which was present there,” a Lavrov said of the Malian junta. at a press conference.
The French Defense Ministry declined to comment. Paris began reshaping its 5,000-man Barkhane mission to include more European partners and, earlier this month, began redeploying from bases in northern Mali.
Mali’s military junta has announced that it will oversee a transition to democracy leading to elections in February 2022.
Malian Prime Minister Choguel Maiga told the UN General Assembly on Saturday that his country felt abandoned by the French decision and said he was seeking other military aid “to fill the gap that will certainly result from Barkhane’s withdrawal.” in the north of the country. «
“The new situation resulting from the end of Operation Barkhane puts Mali in front of a fait accompli – abandoning us, in flight to a certain extent – and it leads us to explore avenues and means to better ensure our security in a way stand-alone, or with other partners, ”he said.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Friday he told Lavrov and his Malian counterpart this week in New York that the potential deployment of the Wagner group would be a “red line” for the European Union , “And that would have consequences for our cooperation.
EU foreign ministers discussed the issue Monday in a closed-door meeting on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders for the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Lavrov said the Russian government had nothing to do with any agreement between the private military company and Mali.
Additional reporting by Polina Devitt and Tangi Salaun; Editing by Jane Merriman and Daniel Wallis
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