Mali has moved closer to Russia, against the background of a diplomatic row with France.The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergei Lavrov will be on a friendship and working visit in Bamako, starting from Monday February 6.
For his first trip to the Malian capital, the head of Russian diplomacy will spend forty-eight hours there. He is thus responding to an invitation extended to him by his Malian counterpart, Abdoulaye Diop, during his stay in Moscow in May 2022.
During his stay in Mali, in addition to his Malian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov will also meet with the Prime Minister, Choguel Kokalla Maiga and the President of the Transition, Colonel Assimi Goïta.
For the Malian authorities, “this high-level visit is in line with the political choice made by the Transitional Government to expand and diversify strategic partnerships, in accordance with the key principles that now guide public action in Mali. In this respect, it materialises the firm will of the two Malian and Russian Heads of State to give a new impetus to relations of friendship and bilateral cooperation, with particular emphasis on strengthening the partnership in priority areas, notably defence and security as well as economic, commercial and cultural cooperation.
Moreover, they believe that this visit will allow “to strengthen the high-level political dialogue between the two countries and to renew the mutual commitment to consolidate the strategic partnership for peace, security and development.”
The strengthening of Russian-Malian ties comes after relations with the former colonial power, France, have deteriorated significantly since the arrival of the new authorities following two coups in August 2020 and May 2021.
This diplomatic row with Paris was marked by the expulsion in January 2022 of the French ambassador to Mali and the French forces of Barkhane and Takuba. This followed numerous accusations by the French authorities against the Malian authorities of having relations with “mercenaries from the Russian private security company Wagner.” These accusations have been echoed by other Western countries and international organisations. However, Bamako continues to deny these accusations, claiming that it maintains a state-to-state cooperation with Russia that dates back to the years of independence in 1960. According to the Malian authorities, this cooperation is focused on training and equipping the Malian army, justifying in particular the numerous recent acquisitions of military equipment by the Malian authorities from Russia.
After Bamako, Sergueï Lavrov will go to Nouakchott and then to Khartoum.