BERLIN (Reuters) – German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock pressed Mali on Wednesday to move towards fair elections and cease working with Russian military contractors if it wants to fully reactivate the European Union’s training of the country’s armed forces.
The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said on Monday the bloc will halt part of its training of Mali’s armed forces, citing a lack of guarantees from Malian authorities that Russian military contractors would not interfere in the work.
Mali’s transitional government, which took power in a 2020 military coup, is battling Islamist militants and has enlisted the help of private military contractors belonging to Russia’s Wagner Group.
“It is clear that in this situation … the Sahel and above all Mali can only be stable if elections are not postponed again and again, and also regarding the security situation, if Russian actors are not worked with,” Baerbock told reporters in Mali.
Borrell said on Monday the Wagner Group, which is already under EU sanctions accused of human rights abuses, was likely responsible for killing civilians during a military operation in a central Mali town in late March.
Baerbock called on Mali’s transitional government to move towards fair elections and also to make progress on reforms, especially to tackle corruption.
“Thirdly … especially with regard to the EUTM (training) mission, we cannot continue to cooperate if there is no separation from Russian forces. That is not the case at the moment,” she added.
(Writing by Paul Carrel, Editing by William Maclean)