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Spain, Mali FMs speak out over NATO remarks after row

#Spain #Mali #FMs #speak #NATO #remarks #row

Mali’s Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop said Saturday he had spoken to his Spanish counterpart after a row over comments by the Spaniard about the possibility of a NATO operation in the African country.

Diop wrote in a tweet that he spoke to his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Albares over the phone about the comments made in a radio interview.

“He dismissed the comments and expressed his commitment to friendly relations and cooperation with Mali,” Diop wrote.

Spain tried to calm the dispute on Saturday, day after day the military regime in Bamako had summoned its ambassador for a statement.

“Spain has not requested an intervention, mission or any action of the alliance in Mali during the NATO summit or at any other time,” the Spanish embassy said in a statement.

The dispute erupted over comments made by Albares in an interview with Spain’s RNE radio on Thursday.

When asked whether a NATO mission in Mali could be ruled out, Albares said: “No, we cannot rule that out.

“It wasn’t on the table at the Madrid talks because this is a summit that sort of sets the framework for NATO’s action.

“If it was necessary and our safety was at risk, of course it would be done,” he added.

Albares spoke on the sidelines of the NATO summit that ended in Madrid.

Diop told state broadcaster ORTM on Friday that Bamako had summoned the Spanish ambassador to protest the statements.

“These statements are unacceptable, unkind, serious,” Diop said, because “they tend to encourage aggression against an independent and sovereign country.”

“We have asked for explanations, for clarification on this position from the Spanish government,” he added.

At the Madrid summit, Spain urged to prioritize the issue of the threat to NATO’s southern flank from the unrest in the Sahel – the vast area stretching across southern Africa’s Sahara and including countries like Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, and Mauritania and Nigeria.

Jihadist attacks there are driving increasing numbers of people to flee north towards Europe, with Spain being one of the main entry points there.

At the summit, NATO recognized the Alliance’s strategic interest in the Middle East, North Africa and the Sahel.

Mali has been shaken by jihadist uprisings since 2012. The violence started in the north and then spread to the center and neighboring countries Burkina Faso and Niger.

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