FM Abdoulaye Diop warns France against violating Mali's airspace and delivering arms to militants who have been fighting in the West African country for the past 10 years, accusations Paris calls "defamatory".

Mali reserves right to exercise its right to self-defence
Mali reserves right to exercise its right to self-defence " if France continues to undermine the sovereignty of our country," says FM Diop. (Reuters Archive)

Mali has said its military government will exercise its right to self-defence if France continued to undermine the West African country's sovereignty and national security.

Speaking at a United Nations Security Council briefing on Mali in New York on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop repeated allegations that Paris had violated its airspace and delivered arms to militants who have been waging an offensive in northern Mali for the past decade.

"There needs to be a specific meeting of the Security Council which will make it possible for us to bring to light evidence regarding duplicitous acts, acts of espionage and acts of destabilisation waged by France," Diop said.

"The government of Mali reserves the right to exercise its right to self-defence … if France continues to undermine the sovereignty of our country and to undermine its territorial integrity and its national security," he added.

France's representative denied the "defamatory" accusations, defended its intervention in Mali as fully transparent and said the country had never violated any airspace.

Paris' relations with Mali have soured since an August 2020 coup and it is withdrawing troops sent in 2013 to help fight the insurgency.

READ MORE: Mali accuses France of 'acts of aggression', seeks emergency UN meeting

Warning against 'instrumentalising' rights issues

Diop also denied human rights violations by the Malian army reported by the UN and other groups.

Several reports, including the latest UN secretary general's assessment, accuse Malian soldiers and Russian mercenaries collaborating with the military government of abusing and killing civilians suspected of colluding with militants.

Diop called the allegations "unfounded" and warned against "instrumentalising" human rights issues.

He said the departure of hundreds of foreign troops would not create a security vacuum.

Other European countries have ended their military involvement in Mali this year, often citing the junta's collaboration with Russian fighters.

Militants have since advanced further into eastern Mali, seizing territory and killing hundreds of civilians as thousands more fled.

Four UN peacekeepers were killed in a separate attack in the north of the country on Monday.

Mali has faced instability since 2012 when militants hijacked a Tuareg rebellion in the north.

France intervened to help push them out. But the militants — some with links to Al Qaeda and Daesh — have since regrouped and spread across the Sahel and further south towards coastal states.

READ MORE: Mali vows improved security after France's withdrawal

Source: Reuters