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Mali authorizes UN troop rotations after standoff

The UN Mission in Mali will resume troop rotations on Monday after an agreement with the authorities in Bamako   -  
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Mali

The United Nations Mission in Mali (UNMIS), which has been suspended for the past month, will resume troop rotations on Monday with a new approval mechanism amid diplomatic tensions between Bamako and its partners.

"UNMISMA has agreed to the new procedures and has communicated them to all troop-contributing countries. There will be no exceptions," Minister Abdoulaye Diop told AFP.

"It is planned that the rotations will start again this Monday," confirmed Myriam Dessables, spokeswoman for the 12,261-strong Minusma and 1,718 police officers.

Before, "they (the contingents) would contact us directly. We have put an end to that. All requests must now go through Minusma, which must validate them and transmit them to Foreign Affairs by verbal note," said the head of Malian diplomacy.

The rotations of the military and police contingents of the Minusma had been suspended on July 14 for an indefinite period due to the "national security context".

On Friday, Germany had announced the suspension "until further notice" of most of its military operations in Mali as part of the UN mission (Minusma), denouncing a new refusal of overflight by the Malian authorities.

The refusal of overflight had come despite assurances to the contrary from the Malian Minister of Defense, Sadio Camara, during a telephone conversation Thursday with his German counterpart Christine Lambrecht, he added.

"The Germans must comply with the new procedures. Their defense minister has been quick to announce the suspension of their operations. This does not impress us," Mr. Diop reacted.

"Our line is clear. We do not compromise on issues of national sovereignty and security," he continued.

And on Saturday, Bamako invited Germany "to renew its request for rotation within the framework of this mechanism through the Minusma.

- Spokesman expelled -

Mali is ruled by a junta that has pushed out the old French ally and eagerly revived cooperation with Moscow in an attempt to stem the jihadist spread that has spread to the center as well as to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Relations between Mali and the UN, whose peacekeepers have been in the country since 2013, have also deteriorated in recent weeks.

UNMIS spokesman Olivier Salgado was expelled for publishing "unacceptable information" in the wake of the arrest of 49 Ivorian soldiers in Bamako on July 10.

The soldiers, described as "mercenaries" by Bamako, were on a mission for the UN, according to Abidjan. They are still being held in Bamako.

The suspension of UNMIS troops' rotations was announced four days after their arrest.

Egypt announced the next day that it was suspending the participation of its 1,035 soldiers in the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), whose mandate was renewed for one year on June 29.

This renewal was accompanied by Mali's "firm opposition" to the freedom of movement of peacekeepers for human rights investigations.

In January, Denmark announced the repatriation of its soldiers as part of the European special forces group Takuba, with Bamako arguing that their deployment had "occurred without its consent.