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Mali rejects call for ECOWAS mediation in dispute with I.Coast

Malian Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maïga (C-L) and transitional Malian President Assimi Goita (C-R), on January 20, 2022.   -  
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Mali rejected a call for ECOWAS-led talks over the detention of Ivorian soldiers in Bamako, warning about an "instrumentalisation" of the regional body in a "bilateral and judicial" matter. The spokesperson for the government of the Sahelian nation also slammed Abidjan's "blackmail" accusations.

The sparring match between Ivory Coast and Mali on the detention of 46 soldiers continues. On Thursday, Bamako rejected Abidjan's call for a regional emergency crisis summit over the detention of its soldiers.

The spokesperson for the government of the Sahelian nation said in a statement that "the case [..] was purely judicial and bilateral" and warned of an "instrumentalisation" of the regional body. Adding that the mediation by the Togolese government was the only framework it would engage in to solve what has become a diplomatic row.

Since 49 Ivorian soldiers were arrested in Bamako in July, Abidjan has insisted the troops were on a routine rotation for personnel who provide back-up services for the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali. However, the mandate of the troops remained obscure and they were charged with "undermining state security".

On Wednesday, following a meeting of Ivory Coast’s National Security Council chaired by President Alassane Ouattara, Abidjan accused Mali of "blackmail". Mali's leader had suggested a prisoner swap to end the crisis. 

According to a source close to the Ivorian presidency, the matter should be discussed next week during an extraordinary ECOWAS summit held on the sidelines of the UN's General Assembly. However, it is unclear if Bamako will have representatives attend the meetings.

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