Mali summons French ambassador over Emmanuel Macron’s ‘unfriendly’ comments

Prime Minister Choguel Maiga accused Paris of abandoning joint fight against extremists

Mali has summoned France’s ambassador to Bamako over comments by French President Emmanuel Macron it said were “unfriendly”.

It is the latest clash between France and its former colony since reports Mali could recruit Russian mercenaries.

Paris is gradually withdrawing its 5,000-strong Barkhane counter-terrorism mission in the Sahel, a region that includes Mali.

The country’s prime minister, Choguel Maiga, has accused France of abandoning the joint fight against extremist insurgents.

Last week, Mr Macron rejected the charge and questioned the legitimacy of the Malian authorities overseeing a transition to elections after two coups in little more than a year.

In response, the Malian foreign ministry said it had summoned the French ambassador to inform him of the authorities’ indignation and disapproval.

At the meeting, Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop “strongly protested” Mr Macron’s “regrettable remarks, which are likely to harm the development of friendly relations”, the ministry said.

Mr Diop called for both sides to take a constructive approach and prioritise countering the insurgency.

Violence in the Sahel, a vast swathe of arid land that borders the southern edge of the Sahara, has intensified in recent years despite the presence of thousands of UN, regional and western troops.

Diplomatic and security sources have said Mali’s year-old military junta is close to recruiting Russian private military the Wagner Group, and France has launched a diplomatic drive to thwart such a move, saying it would be incompatible with a continued French presence.

On Sunday, Algiers withdrew its ambassador to Paris over “inadmissible interference” in Algerian affairs.

Updated: October 6th 2021, 4:50 AM