Mali junta says French ambassador has 72 hours to leave the country

French envoy Joel Meyer was summoned earlier Monday by the West African country’s foreign ministry and instructed to leave over “hostile and outrageous statements” by French authorities targeted at the junta, a military spokesman said in a statement.

“The government of the Republic of Mali informs the national and international community that this day, Monday, 31 January 2022, the ambassador of France to Mali his excellency Joel Meyer was called by the Minister of Foreign Affairs And international cooperation, who notified him of the decision of the government instructing him to leave the country within 72 hours,” the statement said.

The ultimatum comes barely one week after Mali severed diplomatic ties with France, announcing a change to its official language from French to Bambara, and ordering French troops to evacuate its territory, according to a recent communique.

West African nations sever links with Mali over election delay

Bilateral relations between France and Mali’s interim authorities have deteriorated in recent weeks over the military’s proposal to delay a transition to democracy following two successive coups in the last 17 months.

Last week, French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described Mali’s transitional government led by coup leader Assimi Goita as “out of control” and illegitimate, Reuters reported, escalating worsening tensions between both countries.

The junta condemned the comments in its Monday statement, adding that they were “contrary to the development of friendly relations between nations.”‚Ä®Special forces commander Goita’s proposal for a five-year election delay was rejected by the 15-member ECOWAS bloc, which imposed sanctions and suspended Mali from the regional body.

Goita was instrumental in the ousting of President Boubacar Ibrahim Keita in August 2020, after which the country’s interim authorities proposed an 18-month transition to civilian rule which fell through. Keita died on January 16, sixteen months after he was ousted.

In May 2021, Goita staged a second coup and seized power after deposing the interim authorities.

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