In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe called for political dialogue with Tuareg rebels in Mali and called for regional co-operation to fight al Qaeda's expansion in the area.
In Thursday’s exclusive interview with FRANCE 24 and RFI, French Minister of Foreign Affairs Alain Juppe urged West African nations to engage in political dialogue with Tuareg rebels in Mali.
"There will not be a military solution with the Tuaregs. There needs to be a political solution," Juppe said, adding that countries in the region needed to begin talks in order to accomplish this.
Meanwhile in Mali, the MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad), announced they had ended their military operations after claiming enough territory to form their own ‘Azawad’ state.
The secularist separatist group formed an unlikely alliance with fighters from Ansar Dine – an Islamist group that wants to impose sharia, or Islamic law in Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu, the three northern regions of Mali that the MNLA says will make up the new Tuareg homeland.
While the MNLA announced a ceasefire, the intentions of Ansar Dine fighters remain unclear.
Juppe warned of a clear distinction between the Tuaregs and the Ansar Dine Islamists, allegedly "infiltrated" by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Juppe called for regional powers in West Africa to fight al Qaeda’s expansion in the area.
“The MNLA has already reached its goal by occupying the north of the country. On the other hand we have al Qaeda, a terrorist movement, and we think that its purpose is to occupy the whole country in order to implement an Islamist regime…that is why we are fighting against this risk and are willing to support ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] in deploying its ground forces to stop terrorist attacks,” Juppe told FRANCE 24 and RFI.
The escalating crisis also worries France, given that AQIM is holding six French hostages in the region.
No French military intervention
ECOWAS is still weighing military options after imposing sanctions on Mali last week.
Paris hopes that a military intervention by West African forces in Mali will restore constitutional order and halt the Tuareg-led rebellion.
He also said France was ready to provide “logistical support” to help ECOWAS deploy 3,000 troops and prevent al Qaeda from gaining a foothold in northern Mali.
"First and foremost we want regional cooperation between Algeria, ECOWAS countries, Nigeria and Mauritania over a strategy to fight terrorism in the Sahel," Juppe said.
France, the former colonial ruler, is Mali's fourth-largest aid donor - and also trains and equips Malian government forces. Since the rebellion, France has suspended its cooperation, but has maintained humanitarian aid.
Alain Juppe ruled out any direct French military involvement in Mali and denied any similarity with its April 2011 role in Cote d’Ivoire to help oust Ivorian strongman Laurent Gbagbo.
“In Ivory Coast, we intervened while an electoral process was underway, after the elected president asked for our assistance, and the UN was also involved…do you really think that deploying French forces in the Sahel would be welcomed by neighbouring countries, starting with Algeria ?” Juppe asked the journalist.
Date created : 2012-04-05