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28 Mar, 2024 09:39

Another African leader talks Sahel security with Putin

Mali and Russia have discussed measures to improve regional stability, where the EU is concerned about declining influence
Another African leader talks Sahel security with Putin

Russia and Mali will intensify cooperation in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel region, which has endured a decades-long jihadist insurgency, the two nations announced in separate statements on Wednesday.

The agreement was reached during a phone conversation between the West African nation’s interim leader, Assimi Goita, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the Kremlin.

“The presidents discussed further steps to strengthen Russia-Mali ties in various fields, including the implementation of joint projects in energy, agriculture, and mining sectors,” the statement said.

During the call, the Malian military leader strongly condemned the terrorist attack on the Crocus City Hall concert venue, which according to Russian authorities killed over 140 people and injured 200 more.

Goita also wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that he and President Putin “discussed bilateral issues, particularly security and economic areas,” and “agreed to cooperate further in the fight against terrorism.”

The call with Mali’s president came just a day after Putin spoke to Niger’s transitional leader, Abdourahamane Tchiani, with both men pledging to coordinate counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel, where some governments in the region have cancelled security deals with Western partners.

Mali, Niger, and neighboring Burkina Faso, all under military rule, recently formed an alliance and have strengthened ties with Russia, particularly on security, in order to tackle extremist violence which they claim French troops based in the region failed to quell.

Moscow’s relations with Bamako, Ouagadougou, and Niamey have stirred discontent in the EU since the French forces were booted out by all three. In January, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc faces a dilemma over its remaining presence in the Sahel region, mainly in Mali, where he claims Moscow’s influence has increased.

Last week, the US expressed concern about Nigerien authorities’ growing ties with Russia and Iran after Niamey’s military government canceled an agreement that allowed some 1,000 American troops and civilian contractors to operate in the landlocked country.

Responding to allegations that Russia was inciting anti-French sentiment in Africa earlier this month, President Putin said Moscow only maintains friendly relations on the continent, which should not offend the West.