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France rebukes deal bringing Russian militants into Mali

France

French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks during a news conference with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris, France, June 25, 2021. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS

France’s Foreign Minister rebuked on Tuesday an arrangement that would bring Russian mercenaries into Mali.

He said the step is “incompatible” with France’s military presence in its ex-colony.

Sources said a deal is near between Wagner Group, a Russian private military contractor, and Mali’s ruling junta.

The deal would bring mercenaries to provide training to Mali’s military and protect top officials.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, the Foreign Minister, said, “Wagner is a militia that appeared in the past in Syria and the Central African Republic.”

“It carried out several violations that don’t correspond with any solution, and so it’s incompatible with France’s presence,” he added.

Moreover, the Armed Forces Minister, Florence Parly, said she was extremely concerned by this deal.

Sources said Paris started diplomatic pressure to stop the junta, which took power in May’s coup, from signing the agreement.

The sources added that Paris will take a withdrawal from Mali into consideration if the deal continues.

France is concerned that the mercenaries’ arrival would undermine its counter-terrorism operation against al-Qaeda and ISIS-linked insurgents in the Sahel region of West Africa.

France has achieved some successes against the militants in the last months.

However, the situation is highly fragile due to the chaos in Mali after the coup.

Two sources, one of which tracks West Africa, said that over 1000 mercenaries could be in the Wagner Group deal

Other sources believed the number was lower but did not provide figures.

Four sources said the Wagner Group would receive about 11 million dollars a month for its services.

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