Mauritanian defence minister in Mali after diplomatic row

Mauritanian defence minister in Mali after diplomatic row

Mauritania's defence minister arrived in Mali on Saturday for talks with the junta leader, both sides confirmed, as the neighbours look to defuse a dispute over cross-border violence.

UN peacekeepers evacuate strategic camp in northern Mali

About two weeks earlier, Mauritania accused Mali and Russia's Wagner mercenary group of pursing armed men across the border into Mauritanian territory. Following the incident, Bamako sent a high-level delegation to Nouakchott to try to calm tensions.

"Several of our civilian compatriots were killed by the Malian army and fighters from the Wagner group in Mauritanian camps on the border. We sent evidence to Bamako," a Mauritanian security source on the border told AFP.

On Friday, Mauritania summoned the Malian ambassador to "protest against the repeated attacks against innocent and defenceless civilians," a Mauritanian foreign ministry statement said, adding that the "unacceptable situation persists despite the warnings our country has issued."

The following day, the interim leader of Mali, Colonel Assimi Goita, recieved Mauritanian Defence Minister Hanena Ould Sidi, who carried a message from the president, according to a press release from Bamako.

Mali has been ruled by a junta since a 2020 coup overthrew civilian president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

It has been plagued by spiralling jihadist violence that has swept the Sahel region, as well as by the resumption of hostilities in the north by armed separatist groups.

The junta pushed out France's anti-jihadist force in 2022 and the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA in 2023, and turned politically and militarily towards Russia.

Mauritania, considered by the UN to be one of the least developed countries in the world, has also battled waves of jihadist violence, but after a security crackdown, it has not seen an attack since 2011.

During Saturday's talks, Minister Ould Sidi praised the "fraternal and historic relations" between the neighbouring countries, and stressed the need to preserve and strengthen their ties.


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