Mali has not asked any group to negotiate with Islamist militants

·1 min read
FILE PHOTO: Mali's Prime Minister Choguel Maiga addresses the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly

BAMAKO (Reuters) - The Malian government on Thursday said it had not officially asked any organisation to negotiate with Islamist insurgents on its behalf.

This week, a spokesperson for the ministry of religious affairs said it had asked the High Islamic Council (HCI) to open peace talks with leaders of al Qaeda's local affiliate in an effort to end a decade of conflict.

"The Government informs the national and international public that to date, no national or international organisation has been officially mandated to carry out such an activity," the government said in a statement.

Malian authorities have endorsed the idea of talks and have quietly backed local peace initiatives with the militants as security deteriorates and Islamist groups expand beyond their traditional strongholds.

But the strategy is opposed by Mali's chief military ally, France. French President Emmanuel Macron said in June that his troops would not conduct joint operations with countries that negotiate with Islamist militants.

(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Alessandra Prentice. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

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