The Mali military junta has condemned what it calls a “clear breach” of its airspace by a French military aircraft during the week, warning of potential consequences should it happen again. This comes as France has urged the European Union to impose sanctions on the military régime in Bamako, that has failed to honor a timeline for a return to democracy.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Malian government spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga stated that a complaint had been issued to France after one of its military planes travelled between Coted’Ivoire’s economic capital Abidjan and the northern Malian city of Gao on Tuesday.
According to the military government, the flight was a “clear breach” of Malian airspace given the closure of most of the country’s land and air borders due to regional sanctions recently imposed on the country.
The junta claims the French military plane had switched off its transponder, preventing it from communicating with Malian aviation authorities.
In the wake of the incident, the Bamako government says it will “refuse all responsibility for the risks to which the perpetrators of these practices may be exposed in the event of a further violation of our airspace”.
🔴#Mali: un aéronef de Type A400 immatriculé FNBAN de l’Armée a “survolé l’espace aérien malien sans autorisation, le 11 janvier 2022”, selon un communiqué du Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga, ministre de l’Intérieur. Le gouvernement malien dénonce “la violation de son espace aérien”. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/qiBIJiZSqo
Ecowas shutters land, air borders
The French military have denied the Malian government’s claims, saying that the plane’s transponder had been switched to “military mode”, adding that “all procedures were respected” and the aircraft’s flight plan had been approved.
On Sunday, the Economic Community of West African States agreed to close all land and air borders with Mali and impose a trade embargo over delayed elections.
The sanctions – backed by France – came after Mali’s military government proposal in December that it would hold onto power for up to five years before restoring democracy.
Mali’s junta, led by Colonel Assimi Goita, took power in August 2020, promising to hold elections on 27 February.
Military junta “trying to fool” traditional allies
Meanwhile France has sad it will urge the European Union to impose further sanctions against Mali.
Speaking on Wednesday, French foreign affairs minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that Mali risked being “suffocated” unless the military junta lived up to its responsibilities and stopped seeking to “fool” the country’s traditional partners.
With France holding the rotating EU presidency, Le Drian said that the EU measures would be in line with the unprecedented sanctions recently agreed with Ecowas.
The issue is due to be discussed by EU foreign ministers at a meeting in the French city of Brest this Thursday, as France maintains that Mali is now a “European issue”.
“The junta is trying to fool all of its partners,” said Le Drian, noting how Bamako had called for help from Russian Wagner mercenaries as well as the “unacceptable” slipping of the election schedule.
With France already seeking to tighten the vice on the military rulers in Bamako, national carrier Air France said Wednesday that in line with official decisions it was suspending flights to and from Mali until further notice.