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EU warns Mali and Sahel states against using Russian mercenaries

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EU warns Mali and Sahel states against using Russian mercenaries

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European Union warns countries in North Africa’s Sahel region to avoid Russian mercenaries

BRUSSELS — The European Union on Wednesday warned countries in the North African Sahel against hiring Russian mercenaries and underlined its readiness to impose sanctions on anyone interfering with Mali’s transition to civilian rule. .

The interim government of Mali has accepted the presence of security companies from the Wagner group on its territory. Last month, the EU imposed sanctions on eight people and three oil companies linked to Wagner, who is accused of rights abuses in the Central African Republic, Libya and Syria.

The EU warning came during a series of meetings between the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, and the foreign ministers of Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. A full meeting of G5 Sahel countries, including Burkina Faso, did not take place due to differences over who could attend.

Borrell said he underlined the “deep concern of the EU following the confirmed deployment of Russian mercenaries in Mali and the great danger this poses to civilian populations. The methods of this group are incompatible with our collective security and development efforts.

In a long conversation with Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop, Borrell insisted that “the European Union wants to remain engaged in Mali and the Sahel but not at any price”.

The West African regional group ECOWAS imposed tougher economic sanctions on Mali in response. The EU has put in place a framework to impose its own measures on the authorities to curb the political transition but has not yet pulled the trigger.

Mali has been struggling to contain an extremist insurgency since 2012. Rebels were forced from power in northern towns with the help of a French-led military operation, but they regrouped in the desert and began attacking the Malian army and its allies.

Insecurity has worsened with attacks on civilians and United Nations peacekeepers. The EU has also trained the Malian armed forces and plans to continue to do so for the time being despite the severe instability and political upheaval.

Borrell said he demanded “concrete guarantees” from Diop to ensure European aid to Malian security forces could continue. He called for a “credible electoral calendar” and said the EU “is united in its position to impose individual sanctions on those who obstruct the transition process in Mali”.

The takeover of Burkina Faso this week by the Patriotic Movement for Safeguarding and Restoration was also high on the meeting’s agenda. Borrell condemned the coup and stressed that the EU demands “respect for the institutions of the republic and a rapid return to constitutional order”.

He also called for “the immediate release of all those illegally detained, starting with President (Roch Marc Christian) Kaboré himself”.

EU warns Mali and Sahel states against using Russian mercenaries

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