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France says Mali’s exit from defence agreement ‘unjustified’

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A flag changing ceremony in Timbuktu during the handover of the French camp to the Malian army in December 2021. AFP

France says Mali’s exit from defence agreement ‘unjustified’

France hit back on Tuesday at Mali’s decision to renounce a military cooperation agreement as “unjustified” and said it would not change the military withdrawal that is underway and follows a falling-out with the ruling junta.

After several weeks of threats, Bamako announced on Monday that it was quitting the 2014 accords, accusing French troops of “flagrant violations” of its sovereignty.

It was the latest confirmation of deteriorating relations between the junta in Mali and the former colonial power.

A foreign ministry spokesman told reporters that Paris “considers that this decision is unjustified and absolutely contests any violation of the bilateral legal framework”.

France has begun removing soldiers serving in the Barkhane force from Mali following two coups in the country and rising tensions with the military-controlled government.

“France will continue the withdrawal in good order of its military presence in Mali, in line with the commitments it has made to its partners,” the ministry spokesman said.

The French army issued a statement adding it considered the defence accords were still valid “until the last French soldier has left Malian territory”.

The heated exchanges between the two capitals came as diplomats said the UN Security Council had held a closed-door session on Mali on Tuesday at Russia’s request.

Mali had complained to the global body about alleged multiple violations of its airspace by French forces, with Russia accusing Paris of spreading lies against Moscow and Bamako, diplomats said.

Bamako has also recently accused the French army of spying and banned two French broadcasters for making “false accusations”.

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