Hundreds of people marched through Ivory Coast economic capital Abidjan Tuesday. It is the latest demonstration in solidarity with 46 soldiers who were arrested in Mali in July.
To end the crisis Bamako has suggested a prisoner swap but Abidjan calls it "blackmail".
Members of the CONASU political organization and relatives of the troops insisted they are not mercenaries as the Malian government claims.
"Our children are not criminals and they can't be exchanged with Malian politician, Assetou Kone, the mother of one the soldiers say angrily. That won't happen! They must free those kids. They are just simple soldiers. They aren't criminals. They have nothing to do with Malian politics."
With placards reading "We stand with the soldiers" or "Mali and Ivory Coast are sister nations", the protesters called for a diplomatic resolution of the row.
"We will never accept the blackmail or manipulation of the Malian military junta, Awassa Abdoul, the CONASU spokesperson insists.That's why we are reiterating our support to the president of the Republic (of Ivory Coast) that he can count on the people of Ivory Coast, he can count on the youth."
Since the crisis erupted in July, Togo has acted as a mediator between Mali and Ivory Coast but a solution has yet to be found.
To discuss the issue, an ECOWAS extraordinary summit should take place Thursday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
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