France is trying to block the functioning of the mercenaries from the Russian Wagner Group in Mali, considering it a “red line” in mutual relations, writes the daily Le Figaro. Paris is mobilizing Europe to face the formation connected with the Kremlin – he adds.
Since the announcement of rapprochement between the Russian company and the Malian junta, Paris has been trying to block the functioning of Kremlin mercenaries in Bamako, considering it a “red line” in France’s relations with Mali, writes the French daily. “There cannot be cooperation between French soldiers and mercenaries of the Wagner Group in the same territory,” argued the Elysée Palace and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs a few weeks ago.
Now, however, Paris has softened its stance. Collaboration with Russian mercenaries is still considered “unacceptable”, but there is no longer any question of French soldiers leaving Mali, writes Le Figaro.
– Leaving would mean the risk of failure, as in Afghanistan, it would also be a gift for the Russians – a French diplomat, quoted by the newspaper, tells the daily. – The junta wants, above all, to maintain power. We are setting conditions for this regime, but the Russians from Wagner are ready to help them survive, he continues. – There are direct contacts between the junta and the Wagner Group. The discussions now revolve around financial issues. Mercenary involvement is valued at $ 10 million. Is the junta ready to give up its interests in its mines, strain the state budget and risk losing international aid? – adds the interlocutor “Le Figaro”.
In the Sahel, France is counting on Europe to help oppose the Wagnerists, concludes the daily.
Preparation of sanctions
The 27 EU countries are preparing to impose sanctions on the Wagner Group at the next Foreign Affairs Council meeting on December 13 and are making the granting of EUR 24 million aid to the Malian army conditional on breaking cooperation with the Wagner Group, reports Le Figaro.
The European Parliament called on African states to sever all ties with the Wagner Group. Neighboring countries should also demonstrate their reluctance to cooperate with them at the next summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on December 12. According to a source familiar with the case, these international pressures fueled “hesitations” in the Malian junta. Paris has also done everything to convince the countries belonging to the European Takuba operation forces to stay in Mali, the daily analyzes.
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas spoke about this with President Emmanuel Macron during his visit to Paris last week, the daily recalls.
When asked if Estonia would leave Mali if the Wagner Group came, the prime minister replied. – It’s a difficult topic. If the Wagner Group settles in Mali, our participation will become very politically sensitive. But Russia is using the Wagner Group to divide Europe. If Europeans leave Mali, Russia will win, so this is not the time to give such a signal, Kallas said.
Main photo source: MOUSSA KALAPO / PAP / EPA