Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper) The European Union will no longer provide military training to government forces in Mali, but will continue to maintain its presence in the wider Sahel region, the EU High Representative Josep Borrell announced on Monday.
“We are halting the training missions for the armed forces and national guard,” Borrell told reporters, insisting that end of cooperation with the Malinese junta is not the end of EU involvement in the region. “The Sahel remains a priority. We’re not giving up on the Sahel, far from it. We want to commit even more to that region.”
Borrell’s announcement follows the French decision to withdraw its forces from Mali, as relations between Paris and the ruling junta have become strained over humanitarian concerns. Borrell also spoke of “interference” and reported civilian killings committed by Russian Wagner group mercenaries, invited into the country by the Malinese junta.
Speaking after the meeting of EU foreign ministers, Borrell said they decided that “developments in Mali have forced us to see there were not sufficient guarantees on non-interference by the Wagner group.”
“The notorious Wagner group is responsible for some very serious events which have led to tens of people being killed in Mali in recent times,” Borrell said. According to Human Rights Watch, Malinese soldiers and foreign mercenaries executed 300 civilians in Moura between 27 and 31 March.
“We cannot collaborate with reprehensible events,” said Borrel. “We cannot be training people who are responsible for those kinds of behaviours. So the military training for troops, we’re going to stop,” he stressed, calling the incident “a massacre”.
While the military aid to the junta will cease, the EU will continue to engage diplomatically with the current government. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is scheduled to visit Mali this week and hold talks with the junta, with the goal of resolving the uncertainty over the future of German troops currently stationed in the country. After her visit to Mali, Baerbock will make a trip to neighbouring Niger, where France has already moved most of its forces previously stationed in Mali.