Despite the unexpected French military intervention against islamist rebels in Mali, the European Union on Monday dismissed taking a combat role in the conflict.
Instead, the EU plans to speed up its preparations to train the Malian army in combating the Islamist rebels who seized the north of the country last spring.
According to the EU’s executive, the training mission will be sent in late February or early March.
‘We are planning an EU training mission to Mali. Those plans will go ahead. No blueprint will be ripped up and that plan will be put into practice as quickly as possible and the planning will be accelerated. The situation in the field has changed but it remains important and urgent that we train the Malian arm forces properly. We have seen clear shortcomings in their actions. If the EU can help remedy these weaknesses, that’s all to the good’.
(…) The mission would probably be launch on the second half of february or maybe early march’, said EC’s spokesperson Michael Mann.
Earlier last December, EU leaders agreed to provide the Malian troops with European military trainers and financial and logistical support. But France decided last Friday to go solo and sent 700 troops to its former co lony to counter the Islamist insurgency.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Saturday voiced his support to the “courageous action of French troops” in the African country.
‘President Barroso in Marseille made a political statement supporting French actions.
Mr. Barroso said that this situation reacquires a stepped up effort from the international community and we have to show our ability and preparedness to help Mali recover its sovereignty and control its territory and pursue its recovery of constitutional order ‘, said EC’s spokesperson Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen
The EU’s high representative Catherine Ashton and foreign ministers from the 27-nation bloc will meet this week to discuss the situation in Mali.
The Malian conflict began last April with a military coup by Islamist groups and Tuareg rebels to seize northern Mali. After that, they declared the secession of a new state, Azawad.