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France suspends joint military operations with Mali

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The French government has suspended its joint military operations with forces in Mali on Thursday after the second coup d’etat in its former colony within nine months.

The French Defense Ministry said the decision, taken after consultation with Mali’s authorities and military, would be reassessed in the coming days.

“Requirements and red lines have been set by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union to clarify the framework for the political transition in Mali,” the statement said.

“While awaiting these guarantees, France has decided to suspend, as a temporary measure, joint military operations with Malian forces.”

It is currently unclear whether the move means French troops would remain in the West African nation until a fresh decision was taken. On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron warned Mali that France would withdraw troops from the country if political instability there persisted and led to an increase in Islamist violence.

Macron told the Journal du Dimanche that the West African nation was “moving towards” greater Islamist influence. France currently has 5,100 troops in the Sahel region as part of an anti-terror operation against militants.

The French military has been supporting forces in Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad there since 2013.

The International Organization of La Francophonie, a cooperative body that represents mainly French-speaking states around the world, joined the calls for Mail to return to a civilian government by suspending the country from the club until democracy is restored.

Members meeting in Paris “strongly condemned” the coup led by military strongman Assimi Goita on May 24, the organization said in a statement. They also demanded that Mali appoint a civilian prime minister and an “inclusive” government.

While La Francophonie is not itself a powerful body, the move is a sign of Mali’s growing isolation. Mali has also been suspended from the African Union and ECOWAS.

Goita last year led the first coup against elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, following mass protests over perceived corruption and a bloody jihadist insurgency. After the takeover, the military agreed to appoint civilians as interim president and prime minister.

Suzan O/REU

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