Mali-Russia talks held in Moscow as Bamako struggles for control of restive north

Mali-Russia talks held in Moscow as Bamako struggles for control of restive north

Mali’s top diplomat has met with his Russian counterpart in Moscow for talks aiming to boost security cooperation between the two countries just as Bamako is struggling to take a full control of the country’s restive north.

Addressing journalists in Moscow, Mali’s foreign minister Abdoulaye Diop and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov earlier this week vowed to strengthen their bilateral security partnership. Fighters from the Russian Wagner paramilitary group have helped the Malian army made inroads against separatist Tuareg forces in northern Mali at the end of last year, including at Kidal.

“As for the topic of security … we are actively interacting in the military and military-technical sphere, and we see how Mali’s defense capability is being strengthened thanks to the work of our instructors, and the training of personnel on the territory of the Russian Federation for the Malian armed forces, and thanks, of course, to the supply of Russian (military) equipment,” said Lavrov.

In mid-November last year, Mali’s army recaptured the strategic northern town of Kidal from an alliance of predominantly Tuareg armed groups known as the Permanent Strategic Framework (CSP). The groups have long posed a major sovereignty issue for Mali’s ruling junta, which seized power in a 2020 coup. But despite this successful operation and the continued tough military course taken by Mali’s military junta, the north is still far from coming under control because jihadists and rebels are adapting their strategies.

The West African nation has been plagued by violence since 2012, and hoping for change, many Malians backed the military government and its leader, Assimi Goita, after the 2020 coup. However, attacks in northern Mali have more than doubled since 13,000 UN peacekeepers were withdrawn in August 2023 at the request of the Malian government.

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