France halts joint army operations with Malian forces over coup

In its strongest reaction yet to last week’s coup in Mali, France has said it will suspend its joint military operations with Malian forces “awaiting guarantees” that civilians return to positions of power.

Malian soldiers on May 25 detained interim President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane and stripped them of their powers after a dispute over a cabinet reshuffle, plunging the country into further uncertainty after a military coup in August last year.

Assimi Goita, a colonel who led both coups and was Ndaw’s deputy in the transitional administration formed in September with the task of steering the country towards the full civilian rule, was named president on May 28.

In response to the army’s latest power grab, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc and the African Union have suspended Mali from their organisations and threatened sanctions.

“Demands and red lines have been set by ECOWAS and the African Union to clarify the framework for the political transition in Mali. It is up to the Malian authorities to respond quickly,” France’s armed forces ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

“Pending these guarantees, France, after informing its partners and the Malian authorities, has decided to suspend, as a precaution and temporarily, joint military operations with the Malian forces, as well as national advisory missions that benefit them.”

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