Wednesday October 05, 2022

German military suspends Mali mission amid airspace dispute

Published : 13 Aug 2022, 00:00

Updated : 13 Aug 2022, 00:02

  By Jörg Blank, dpa

German Army soldiers stand by an NH90 helicopter at Camp Castor in Gao during the defence minister's visit. File Photo: Kay Nietfeld/dpa.

Germany is suspending its military mission in Mali until further notice, the Defence Ministry in Berlin said on Friday, in another blow to security ties between the troubled West African country and Europe.

The Malian government has repeatedly denied the Bundeswehr overflight rights, which it needs to facilitate troop rotation, a spokesperson said in announcing the move, meaning transport flights and reconnaissance operations will be suspended with immediate effect.

Government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit said Germany was prepared in principle to continue participating in an international peacekeeping mission, but only if this was supported by the Malian government.

Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said she had received assurances that overflight rights would be restored from her Malian counterpart Sadio Camara as recently as Thursday.

"Camara's actions speak a different language than his words," Lambrecht said.

Mali, with its population of around 20 million, has experienced three military coups since 2012 and is considered extremely unstable.

Since the most recent coup in May 2021, the country has been led by a military transitional government that is said to maintain close relations with Russia.

Last week, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock accused Mali's military-led government of having "torpedoed time and again" the Bundeswehr's efforts.

The loss of flyover rights came shortly after Mali banned foreign troops, including those from Germany, from a section of the capital's airport that houses a UN base.

Germany has been participating in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), a peacekeeping force established to boost security after the Tuareg Rebellion of 2012, an early stage of the ongoing armed conflict in the country.

Western powers have been reassessing their commitments to Mali amid hostility from the junta, with France and other European countries recently withdrawing troops involved in counter-terrorism operations against Islamist insurgents.