EU suspends Mali training missions after coup

Foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says bloc hopes to resume missions as soon as possible

EU foreign affairs high representative Josep Borrell addresses a press conference following a videoconference with EU Defence Ministers in Brussels on June 16, 2020.   / AFP / POOL / Olivier HOSLET
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The EU has suspended its training missions in Mali after the armed forces there seized power in a coup, officials said Wednesday.

The bloc's diplomatic chief, Josep Borrell, said the measure was temporary and he hoped the missions could resume their work "as soon as possible".

The military ousted president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita last week, shocking Mali's neighbours who fear the state already battling an insurgency and an economic slump may slide into chaos.

The EU has two training missions in Mali – one working with the military and the other with civilian security forces – trying to build up the state's ability to control its vast but unstable territory.

After EU defence ministers held talks on the Mali crisis in Berlin, Mr Borrell said both missions were "put temporarily on hold because circumstances don't allow them to continue normal activity".

Officials in Brussels say the mission has trained about 18,000 soldiers in Mali since it was launched in 2013, but they insist that none of the main coup leaders are among them.

A senior EU official said the bloc had no choice but to suspend the missions because their mandates were to "work with and support legitimate national authorities".

But Mr Borrell said the EU was committed to helping Mali overcome its problems, not least because it does not want the country to become a launchpad for attacks on Europe.

"The European Union has invested a lot in Mali and we don't want to waste this effort," Mr Borrell said.

"The work will continue and we will resume activities as soon as possible."

German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, urged the coup leaders to begin the transition to civilian rule and new elections as soon as possible.