British Foreign secretary arrives in Mali to meet French troops

BAMAKO — William Hague arrived in Mali on Monday to meet French-backed African troops fighting Islamist militants for control of the west African country.
An ethnic Tuareg Malian soldier stands guard at a checkpoint in Gao. Net photo.
An ethnic Tuareg Malian soldier stands guard at a checkpoint in Gao. Net photo.

BAMAKO — William Hague arrived in Mali on Monday to meet French-backed African troops fighting Islamist militants for control of the west African country.

“My visit, the first by a British foreign secretary, underlines the UK’s strong commitment to work with international partners to support Mali and countries in the region on countering terrorism and restoring security,” Hague said.

Hague is meeting with Mali’s president and prime minister, along with the country’s minister for foreign affairs.

He also will meet Monday with the commander of the African-led intervention force and the deputy commander of the European Union training mission to the Malian armed forces.

Speaking upon his arrival, Hague said Mali is “at the heart of” complex political and security challenges that “have the potential to affect the wider region,” a foreign office statement quoted him as saying.

He said he is looking forward to discussing the Malian government’s plans to implement path towards elections and the restoration of full democratic rule.

He arrived as the families of four hostages being held by al-Qaeda’s north African branch on Monday urged the French government to show a “willingness to negotiate” with the militant group.

The call was issued against a background of fears for the lives of the hostages following the reported killing of two al-Qaeda-linked leaders by French-backed Chadian troops in Mali over the weekend.

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