France has lost the “legal basis” for operations in Mali

Mali’s ruling junta said France no longer has a “legal basis” to carry out military operations in the country after Bamako left key defense deals.

The announcement on Malian television on Tuesday came a day after the junta renounced several agreements underpinning French and European missions in the jihadist coup state.

Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop said it would take six months for the formal end of a 2014 defense agreement with France to take effect.

However, the legal end of the agreements signed in 2013 and 2020 over Barkhane and Takuba’s French operations in Europe immediately applied, he said.

“So, as of May 2, the agreement covering Barkhane and the agreement covering Takuba cease to have effect on Mali … which means that from this moment there is no legal basis for France to operate. on Malian soil, “Diop said.

France has deployed thousands of troops to Mali, supported by drones and warplanes, as part of its Operation Barkhane, a mission to help fragile allies in the Sahel fight a brutal jihadist uprising.

But the once close relationship between Paris and Bamako has soured after disgruntled officials seized power in August 2020, overthrowing Mali’s elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Tension rose almost to breaking point after the junta introduced paramilitaries who France and others say are mercenaries of the controversial Wagner group.

In February, France, citing the junta’s “obstructions”, announced the withdrawal of its forces from Mali, a measure that also applies to Takuba, a French-led mission that includes special forces from European allies.

Diop said that Barkhane was already withdrawing from Mali and that France could continue working on the withdrawal.

However, “everything that takes place on the territory of a sovereign state should be discussed and agreed with the current state,” he said.

The host state, “responsibly enough, will ensure that things are done correctly and on time with what the government wants to be appropriate,” he said.

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‘Unjustified’ –

The French foreign ministry said Tuesday that Mali’s renunciation of the agreements was “unjustified”.

He also disputed that the agreements concerning Barkhane and Takuba could be abandoned with immediate effect.

Mali denies calling Wagner and has indicated a desire for state-to-state cooperation with France.

In Brussels on Wednesday, the European Union Foreign Policy Service said Mali’s withdrawal was “deplorable”.

“We believe we must fight the terrorist threat in Mali. We would like to see constructive work with the international forces in Mali and with the transitional authorities in Mali, ”said his spokesman, Peter Stano.

On 11 April, the EU said it “keeps” its training missions in Mali, although it will maintain a presence in neighboring countries.

The announcement came after reports of a massacre of civilians in the village of Moura in central Mali in March involving government forces and foreign white soldiers suspected of being Wagner agents.

The EU has several hundred soldiers and experts in Mali, where they are contributing to the training of the army and national guard.

The mission is outside the framework of Barkhane, Takuba and the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, which has several contingents of European nations.