The issue of the 46 Ivorian soldiers detained in Mali since July is "in the process of being resolved", the Ivorian Defence Minister told the press on Thursday, after the visit of an official delegation to Bamako.
On 10 July, 49 Ivorian soldiers were arrested in Mali, described as "mercenaries", then charged in mid-August with "attempting to undermine the external security of the state" and formally imprisoned. Three women were later released.
Abidjan says the soldiers were on a UN mission providing logistical support to the UN Mission in Mali (Minusma) and is demanding their release, a demand supported by West African heads of state at the last summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which set an ultimatum of 1 January or face new sanctions against Mali.
"It is an issue that is being resolved and we can say that we have just made a fruitful trip here on Malian soil," said Ibrahima Téné Ouattara, head of the official Ivorian delegation.
If the content of the discussions concerning the Ivorian military was not made public, "the meeting took place in a fraternal spirit of mutual understanding", the Defence Minister assured.
"There was a misunderstanding between the Republic of Mali and the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire a few months ago, it was good that we could meet to discuss it. This is what we did," Ouattara continued.
"We were able to note the willingness on both sides to work to overcome this event by preserving the ties that exist between our two countries," said Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop.
"Our discussions led to the signing of a memorandum of understanding to promote peace and work to strengthen friendly relations" between the two countries, he added.
Togo's Foreign Minister Robert Dussey, whose country is mediating in the case, was also in Bamako on Thursday.
He said he was "happy (...) to witness and co-sign commitments that both parties have made in Bamako".