Mali and France at odds over talks with Islamist militants

115

Mali’s interim prime minister said on Monday he was open to talks with Islamist militants whose insurgency has made vast swathes of the country ungovernable, but former colonial power France signalled opposition to the idea.

Ousted former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said earlier this year that his government was prepared to negotiate with al Qaeda-linked militants. National talks in the aftermath of the August coup that overthrew Keita endorsed that policy.

Malian officials have provided few specifics about what kinds of compromises could emerge, but some proponents of negotiations have said they could include recognition of a greater role for Islam in public life.

Moctar Ouane, who was appointed interim prime minister last month to manage an 18-month transition after the 18 August coup that toppled Keita, said his government was prepared to pursue talks.

“The conclusions of the inclusive national talks … very clearly indicated the necessity of an offer of dialogue with these armed groups,” Ouane said at a news conference in Bamako with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian who is on a two-day visit.

“We need to see in that an opportunity to engage in far-reaching discussions with the communities in order to redefine the contours of a new governance of the areas that are concerned,” he said.

Le Drian, however, indicated he was opposed, noting that the Islamist groups had not signed a 2015 peace deal that it considers a framework for restoring peace to northern Mali.

“We need to see in that an opportunity to engage in far-reaching discussions with the communities in order to redefine the contours of a new governance of the areas that are concerned,” he said.



Le Drian, however, indicated he was opposed, noting that the Islamist groups had not signed a 2015 peace deal that it considers a framework for restoring peace to northern Mali.