Europe allies look for new plan to tackle extremists in Mali

Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop said the French comments were "full of contempt"

Danish Defence Minister Trine Bramsen (centre) said European allies are deciding what 'future counter-terrorism mission should look like in the Sahel region'. AFP

European allies have agreed to draw up plans on how to continue fighting extremists in the Sahel region of Mali, Denmark's defence minister has said, after his nation’s forces were expelled.

France said the situation with the ruling Malian junta, which has failed to organise an election after two coups, was untenable.

Mali's Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop hit back, saying his government was “ruling nothing out” regarding its future relations with France.

The Europeans met on Friday to try to find a way of continuing the military mission.

“There was a clear perception that this is not about Denmark, it's about a Malian military junta which wants to stay in power. They have no interest in a democratic election, which is what we have demanded,” Danish Defence Minister Trine Bramsen said.

She was speaking after a virtual meeting between the 15 countries involved in the European special forces Takuba task mission.

Ms Bramsen said the parties had agreed to come up with a plan within 14 days to decide on what the “future counter-terrorism mission should look like in the Sahel region".

“European, French and international forces are seeing measures that are restricting them. Given the situation, given the rupture in the political and military frameworks, we cannot continue like this,” France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

Mr Diop said the French comments were “full of contempt".

“France's attitude needs to change... we are reviewing several defence accords and treaties to ensure they don't violate Mali's sovereignty. If that's not the case we will not hesitate to ask for adjustments,” he said.

The crisis also raises questions about the broader future of French operations in Mali, where there are about 4,000 troops.

Mali, with a population of about 20 million people, has struggled to suppress an insurgency that began in the north in 2012 before spreading to central regions and spilling over into nearby Burkina Faso and Niger.

Large parts of Mali’s vast territory lie outside of government control, and the worsening instability has claimed thousands of lives and displaced hundreds of thousands.

Several military operations have been launched to counter the threat, including the French Barkhane operation and the G5 Sahel force, which involves units from Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania.

Updated: January 29, 2022, 9:52 AM