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French ambassador expelled from Mali

Image source, Getty Images

Mali’s military leaders are expelling the French ambassador over what they called “outrageous” comments made by the French foreign minister about the transitional government.

France said it was recalling Joel Meyer, who was given 72 hours to leave.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian last week said the Mali junta was “illegitimate” and “out of control”.

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Relations between the two countries have deteriorated since the army seized power in August 2020.

Tensions increased further this month when the junta reversed an agreement to arrange elections in February and vowed to hold power until 2025.

France has threatened to pull its troops out of Mali, where they have been fighting an Islamist insurgency. The landlocked country in West Africa is a former French colony.

French Defence Minister Florence Parly has accused Mali’s rulers of stepping up “provocations” of France.

Mr Meyer “was summoned and notified of a decision by the government inviting him to leave the national territory within 72 hours following hostile and outrageous comments by the French foreign affairs minister recently”, the Mali government said in a statement read on national television.

The French Foreign Affairs ministry confirmed it was recalling their ambassador soon after.

French soldiers monitor a a rural area during an operation in northern Burkina Faso along the border with Mali and Niger - 10 November 2019

Image source, AFP

French troops have been deployed in Mali since 2013.

Its involvement came after Islamist militants overran parts of the north. With the help of France, Mali’s army has recaptured the territory, but militants are waging an increasingly bloody insurgency across the Sahel region.

France also has troops in Niger and Burkina Faso, which are also fighting jihadist insurgencies.

Western powers are concerned about Mali’s alleged use of Russian mercenaries, which some European countries have said is at odds with their mission.

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