At a critical moment for Mali, when the local government gives way to the Wagner militiamen on its territory, the Defense Minister, Margarita Robles, began a two-day trip to the African country on Thursday, key in the Sahel for relations between Spain with the area and stop terrorism.

Robles visited the Hermanas María Inmaculada center before meeting his Malian counterpart, Sadio Camara, at the ministry’s headquarters. During the meeting, the minister discussed with Camara the status of the mission after leaving France. “Spain’s position is always the same: we believe in a 360-degree approach and we are firmly committed to collaboration between Europe and Africa, we cannot build a world at peace without that cooperation. Spain will always be trying to promote these good relations “He told the press.

The European mission has been providing the local army with military training and advice on chains of command, as well as notions of international humanitarian law, since 2013. Due to the advance of the presence of Wagner militiamen, last August France finished withdrawing its soldiers in a withdrawal as a result of tensions with Assimi Goïta, president of Mali since 2021 after staging two coups. Goïta began an international policy influenced by the Yarewolo pan-Africanist group, giving space to Wagner mercenaries since the end of that year. In February 2022, Macron began the plan to withdraw his troops from the country, moving them to Niamey (Niger).

Spain is committed to continuing in the Sahel, but the withdrawal in August of the last French soldier reconfigures the entire panorama of the fight against Islamic terrorism in the Sahel. “Spain’s position is very clear: we have to open up to the south, we cannot forget what is happening here in Africa. Russia is spreading through the countries of the Sahel and as Spaniards we are going to support collaboration,” he insisted.

This Thursday, accompanied by the Chief of Defense Staff, Teodoro López Calderón, and by Esperanza Casteleiro, director of the National Intelligence Center, the minister held a meeting with the Spanish contingent at the EUTM Mali headquarters in Bamako. The Spanish mission in Mali began in 2013 with a discreet contingent of 50 soldiers, a presence that Spain has been reinforcing over the years, until it became the main allied force deployed in the country. Spain currently contributes 350 troops and Brigadier General Santiago Fernández Ortiz-Repiso has been in charge of the mission since last December.

After meeting with Fernández, the minister paid tribute to those who died in the European mission and met with the chief officers of each country participating in the aid mission. Robles plans to have dinner with the Spanish personnel deployed in Mali and on Friday visit the “Association for the Soutien des Handicapés et Enfants Démuins” orphanage and visit the headquarters of the United Nations mission.

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