The French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius stated on a visit to the Malian capital Bamako that France would stick to plans to withdraw troops from the African country.
Around 4000 French soldiers were first put on the ground in January to stop an Islamist offensive, which Paris deemed a threat to Western security. There are now plans to halve that number by July, after the country goes to the polls.
Fabius told reporters: “Elections take place in July. Nobody, including politicians, has proposed anything different and for us it is important that elections are held on that date”.
Fabius is in talks with the interim government to ensure a smooth democratic transition. He has also urged Tuareg rebels to call a ceasefire and take part in the electoral process.
Euronews spoke to a local resident, Abderamane Maiga, about the upcoming elections: “I can assure you that all the young people in Mali are ready to go to elections,” he said.
Mali’s Foreign Minister Tieman Coulibaly said the nation could meet the timetable. And Paris is encouraging elections because this would also invite greater international assistance, relieving some of the pressure on France.
But critics claim now is not the time for a military withdrawal. Islamist insurgents attacked the northern city of Timbuktu for the second time in a fortnight last week, promising to “open the gates of hell” when the French leave.