Ties with Mali in jeopardy: European Union

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The European Union says ties with Mali could be seriously affected if it allows Russian private military contractors to operate in the country.

Diplomatic and security sources told Reuters that Mali’s one-year-old military junta is close to recruiting the Wagner Group to supply mercenaries to train Mali’s military and protect senior officials.

France has launched a diplomatic drive to thwart the move. Paris says it would be “incompatible” with a continued French presence.

West Africa’s main political bloc, ECOWAS, as well as other allies combating militants in the Sahel region, have also expressed concerns over the potential deal.

Mali’s military junta has said it will oversee a transition to democracy leading to elections in February 2022.

Mali says it can seek military help from anyone, despite French concern

Mali has the right to seek military support from whoever it wants, the prime minister said, after France and other foreign powers expressed alarm at a report that Bamako was approaching Russian mercenaries for assistance.

Prime Minister Choguel Maiga did not confirm whether the government was in talks with any other party in his comments that were released by a Malian news site, but diplomatic and security sources have told Reuters Mali’s government was close to a deal with a private Russian military contractor.

The sources said Russia’s Wagner Group would supply mercenaries to train Mali’s military and protect senior officials, based on the deal being negotiated.