#REUTERS. | Mali accuses France of violating its airspace to “spy” on its troops

The junta in power in Mali announced Monday evening to break the defense agreements with France and its European partners, a new manifestation of the deterioration of relations between Bamako and its former allies in the fight against the jihadists.

Carrying out a threat brandished for months, the authorities dominated by the military who came to power by force in August 2020 announced that they were “denouncing” the Status of Force Agreements (Sofa) setting the legal framework for the presence in Mali of the French Barkhane and European Takuba forces, as well as the defense cooperation treaty concluded in 2014 between Mali and France.

In a press release read on national television, the government spokesman, Colonel Abdoulaye Maïga, invoked the “flagrant attacks” on the part of France, engaged militarily in the country since 2013, to national sovereignty.

He cited France’s “unilateral attitude” when it suspended joint operations between French and Malian forces in June 2021, the announcement in February 2022, “again without any consultation of the Malian side”, of the withdrawal of the Barkhane and Takuba forces, and the “multiple violations” of airspace by French aircraft despite the establishment by the authorities of a no-fly zone over a large part of the territory.

“In view of these serious shortcomings as well as the flagrant attacks on Mali’s national sovereignty, the government of the Republic of Mali has decided to denounce the defense cooperation treaty of July 16, 2014,” he said. .

The Malian authorities notified this denunciation Monday afternoon to the French authorities and it will take effect six months after this notification, he specified.

On the other hand, it is with “immediate effect” that the Malian authorities denounce the Sofa of March 2013 framing the commitment of the French force Serval, then Barkhane, as well as the additional protocol of March 2020 applying to the European detachments of Takuba , the grouping of European special units initiated by France, he said.

No official reaction was obtained initially in Paris.

Will the denunciation of the Sofa have repercussions on the ongoing withdrawal of Barkhane, announced in February as the culmination of months of escalating tensions? The question then arises that this withdrawal, a big and dangerous operation, is supposed to take place over four to six months.

– “Informational attack” –

The announcement by the Malian authorities further poisons relations between two former allies who together fought the jihadist contagion from the north of this poor and landlocked country. It has since reached neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso, and threatens to spread even further south to the Gulf of Guinea. It caused thousands of deaths in Mali, civilians and combatants, and left the country close to sinking, by the very admission of the authorities.

Relations deteriorated between Bamako and Paris after the second coup d’etat led by the colonels in May 2021 against a president and a Prime Minister whom they had installed themselves, then the revocation by the colonels of their commitment to return power to civilians in February 2022.

The tensions worsened as the junta approached Russia. France and its allies accuse the Malian authorities of securing the services of the controversial Russian private company Wagner. The government contests and speaks of old state-to-state collaboration.

Mali expelled the French ambassador in January.

Already at the time, Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop was considering the denunciation, if necessary, of the cooperation treaty. Mali had asked for amendments in December, arguing that certain provisions were contrary to national sovereignty.

The colonels took a very dim view of Barkhane continuing to operate in the Malian sky.

Last week, the junta accused the French army of “espionage” and “subversion” after the broadcast by the French general staff of videos shot by a drone near the Gossi base (center) returned in April by France.

Two days after this restitution, the French army had, to counter what it described as an “informational attack”, published a video of what it said were Russian mercenaries burying bodies near this base. to accuse France of war crimes.

Source: Reuters-VOA.

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