Bamako – Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop has warned his country will not allow regional heads of state expected to visit later this week to impose a solution to the diplomatic crisis with Ivory Coast.
“We will listen to them,” Diop said in an interview in Bambara with VOA Afrique posted on the foreign ministry’s social accounts.
“We have said from the beginning that all Mali wants is to seek ways and means to find common ground… But if (the goal) is to impose decisions on Mali, it will not work”.
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) leaders decided at an extraordinary summit in New York last week to send a mission to Mali, including the Ghanaian, Senegalese and Togolese heads of state, to find a way out of the country’s ongoing crisis with Ivory Coast.
The mission was due to arrive on Tuesday, but Mali said it would not be able to receive it until Thursday or Friday.
Mali and Ivory Coast are locked in a diplomatic row over the fate of 46 Ivorian soldiers arrested on July 10 upon arrival at Bamako airport.
Ivory Coast and the UN say the troops were supposed to help provide security for the German contingent of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, but Bamako has accused them of being “mercenaries” who had come to undermine state security.
Diop said the case was in the hands of the Malian justice system. Mali has also accepted mediation from Togo.
He said the head of the Malian junta, Colonel Assimi Goita, was open to a deal “outside of the justice system” and pointed to Mali’s release earlier this month of three of the 49 soldiers who had initially been detained.
But then ECOWAS got involved without Mali being consulted, he said.
“A decision was taken unilaterally in favour of Ivory Coast, but this is not an ECOWAS problem, it is between Mali and Ivory Coast,” Diop said.
“Anyone who wants to offer a solution will be welcome… But the steps taken by ECOWAS are not solutions for us,” he added.