French troops in last militant-held Mali city
BAMAKO - Agence France-Presse
Around 3500 troops participate in the operation to recapture Mali. AFP photo
France called for peace talks between Mali’s government and “legitimate representatives” from the north, after French troops took up positions at Kidal, the last city held by Islamist forces.
“This political process now has to advance concretely,” French Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said Jan. 30.
He called for talks with the legitimate representatives of the northern peoples and “non-terrorist armed groups” that recognize the integrity of Mali. “Only a north-south dialogue will prepare the ground for the Malian state to return to the north of the country,” he said. The United States also called for Malians to refrain from revenge attacks on Tuaregs or other ethnic minorities. French troops arrived at Kidal airport in the early hours of Jan. 30, just days after the capture of Gao and Timbuktu and after a lightning push north, which Paris hopes now to wind down with a handover to African forces.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the troops at Kidal had been unable to leave the airport there because of a sandstorm. France swept to Mali’s aid on Jan. 11 after an Islamist advance south towards Bamako sparked fears the whole country could become a haven for terrorists.