Mali's Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop has threatened France with self-defence if the former metropolis "continues to undermine" the sovereignty of its territory

New confrontation between France and Mali at the UN

photo_camera REUTERS/YURI KADOBNOV - Mali's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Abdoulaye Diop

Anti-French sentiment remains a constant in Assimi Goita's de facto Malian government, and is demonstrated by his entire executive. Less than a year ago, they accused France of neo-colonialist attitudes and ended up breaking the defence agreement between their country and the Elysée, which materialised in the gradual withdrawal of French troops from Bamako. Operation Barkhane in Mali was over, but the delegitimisation of the French military presence in Mali was not

This time, it was Mali's Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop who took up this discourse again at the UN Security Council on Tuesday. "The Malian government reserves the right to resort to legitimate self-defence, in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, if France continues to undermine Mali's sovereignty, territorial integrity and national security," Diop said.

minusma-mali-soldados

The head of Malian diplomacy was invited to this meeting because it was an evaluation of the UN Secretary General's quarterly report on the situation in Mali. Diop did not hesitate to take advantage of this invitation, accusing Paris of violating its airspace and delivering weapons to Islamist soldiers, for which he asked the Security Council to hold an "ad hoc" session to demonstrate "concrete evidence of duplicity, espionage and destabilisation of Mali" on the part of France.

However, these accusations are not new. Diop himself presented them on 15 August during the General Assembly. Something that was also mentioned at this last meeting, accusing the Secretary-General's report of "surprisingly" "silencing Mali's referral in relation to the attempts at destabilisation and repeated violations of airspace by French forces". The Malian Foreign Minister described these acts as an "extremely serious aggression" that constitutes a violation of the United Nations Charter and international law.

nicolas-de-riviere-embajador-francia-onu

On the other side of the podium, Nicolas de Rivière, the French ambassador to the UN, said that all of this was nothing but a collection of "lies and defamations". The Frenchman also regretted that his country has to listen to these accusations when it has suffered the death of 59 soldiers killed on Mali's territory, in a nine-year assistance mission requested by the Malian government itself in 2013. 

This anti-French attitude reflected in Diop's words was seen by Rivière as a product of the "crossroads situation" that Mali is currently experiencing, especially with jihadist terrorism. "The threat is first and foremost security. Terrorist groups are extending their reach and claiming more and more lives", he said, warning that the UN mission in the country, MINUSMA, is already a "mission in danger".

mali-banderas-rusas

Earlier on Monday, a terrorist attack with an explosive device killed several MINUSMA peacekeepers in the Kidal region of northern Mali. This loss brings the total number of military deaths since the deployment of the UN mission in the country to 75, something that both Diop and Rivière have deplored.

However, in the midst of these accusations, the French ambassador to the UN had something to recognise, and that was "the first steps" towards a transition in Mali after the coup d'état. On Tuesday, Assimi Goita himself presided over the ceremony of the official handover of Mali's draft constitution.

The reason for this celebration is none other than the formula that a strengthening of governments in the Sahel is a bulwark against jihadist terrorism and independence from Russian influence in the region. A worrying reality that affects neighbouring countries such as Burkina Faso after the latest coup d'état perpetuated by Ibrahim Traoré.