Mali’s foreign affairs minister on Tuesday said the military government would exercise its right to self-defence if France continued to undermine the West African country’s sovereignty and national security.
Speaking at a United Nations Security Council briefing on Mali in New York, Minister Abdoulaye Diop repeated allegations that France had violated its airspace and delivered arms to Islamist militants that have been waging an offensive in northern Mali for the past decade.
France has denied this. Its relations with Mali have soured since an August 2020 coup and it is withdrawing troops sent in 2013 to help fight the insurgency.
“There needs to be a specific meeting of the Security Council which will make it possible for us to bring to light evidence regarding duplicitous acts, acts of espionage and acts of destabilization waged by France,” Diop said.
“The government of Mali reserves the right to exercise its right to self-defence… if France continues to undermine the sovereignty of our country and to undermine its territorial integrity and its national security,” he added.
France’s representative denied the “defamatory” accusations, defended its intervention in Mali as fully transparent and said the country had never violated any airspace.
Diop also denied human rights violations by the Malian army reported by the U.N. and other groups.
Several reports, including the latest U.N. Secretary-General assessment, accuse Malian soldiers and Russian mercenaries collaborating with the military government of abusing and killing civilians suspected of colluding with jihadists.
Diop called the allegations “unfounded” and warned against “instrumentalizing” human rights issues.
He said the departure of hundreds of foreign troops would not create a security vacuum.
Other European countries have ended their military involvement in Mali this year, often citing the junta’s collaboration with Russian fighters.
Islamist militants have since advanced further into eastern Mali, seizing territory and killing hundreds of civilians as thousands more fled.
Four U.N. peacekeepers were killed in a separate attack in the north of the country on Monday.
Mali has faced instability since 2012, when Islamist militants hijacked a Tuareg rebellion in the north. France intervened to help push them out. But the militants -some with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State – have since regrouped and spread across the Sahel and further south towards coastal states.