France and 14 other countries ask Mali to let Danish special forces remain in the West African country, but its government repeats its demand on "immediate withdrawal."

More than 50 French soldiers have been killed in the region since Paris deployed a force in 2013 to drive back militants who had seized cities and towns in northern Mali.
More than 50 French soldiers have been killed in the region since Paris deployed a force in 2013 to drive back militants who had seized cities and towns in northern Mali. (AP)

France and 14 other countries have urged Mali to allow Danish forces to remain in the West African country, saying their presence was critical in the fight against terrorism in the region. Mali, however, repeated its demand that Denmark "immediately withdraw" its troops from the country. 

In a joint statement on Wednesday, the 15 countries said they deeply regretted allegations by Mali's transitional government that the Danish contingent in the Takuba Task Force was made without a proper legal basis.

"They act in full accordance with international and national laws in their support to the Malian armed forces and in their long-standing fight against armed terrorist groups," the statement read.

"We call on the Malian government to respect the solid grounds on which our diplomatic and operational cooperation are based and to quickly remedy to this situation at a critical time for Mali when solidarity is required more than ever," it said.

In response to Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod saying on Tuesday that the troops were deployed by a "clear invitation," the Malian government said on Wednesday it was surprised because a decision on the Danish request in June to deploy troops was still pending.

"No accord authorises the deployment of Danish special forces to the Takuba Task Force," the Malian government said in a statement. 

Norway, Portugal and Hungary are still waiting for approval and have not deployed troops, it added.

READ MORE: Mali asks Denmark to 'immediately' withdraw its troops

Takuba Task Force

On Monday, Mali asked Denmark to "immediately withdraw" troops, saying they arrived with the government's consent.

The demand for the Danish troop withdrawal comes just a week after a 90-person contingent from Denmark had arrived in the volatile African nation for a one-year deployment. 

The Danish contingent includes a surgical team.

The Danish Foreign Ministry said that in 2019 then-president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita had requested that Denmark send troops to join the Takuba effort. But less than a year later, Keita was deposed in a military coup by the man now in charge in Mali – Colonel Assimi Goita.

After seizing power in August 2020, Goita initially pledged to uphold Mali's international agreements but recently has shown signs of reluctance, at one point even temporarily grounding UN peacekeeping flights in the north.

The Takuba Task Force was established as a partial successor to a French counter-terrorism operation in the West African Sahel region. French President Emmanuel Macron has started to reduce the operation which had over 5,000 troops.

More than 50 French soldiers have been killed in the region since Paris deployed a counter-terrorism force in 2013 to drive back militants who had seized cities and towns in northern Mali.

READ MORE: Mali to seek overturn of 'illegal sanctions' in International courts

Source: Reuters