A government spokesperson calls for an extraordinary meeting of the Economic Community of West African States to resolve the issue of 46 soldiers detained by Mali's military government.

Mali detained the soldiers in its capital Bamako on July 10, accusing them of being mercenaries who flew in without permission.
Mali detained the soldiers in its capital Bamako on July 10, accusing them of being mercenaries who flew in without permission. (TRTWorld)

Ivory Coast has called on West Africa's political bloc to help release 46 soldiers detained by Mali's military government, a government spokesperson has said, after a Togolese-led mediation effort appeared to have stalled.

In a televised statement on Wednesday, government spokesperson Amadou Coulibaly called for an extraordinary meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to resolve the issue.

"Our soldiers are not mercenaries but hostages," said Coulibaly, demanding their immediate release.

Mali's military, which took power over the course of two coups in 2020 and 2021, could not be reached for comment.

Mali detained the soldiers in its capital Bamako on July 10, accusing them of being mercenaries who flew in without permission.

Ivory Coast said they were part of a security and logistics contingent working under a UN peacekeeping mission in Mali. The government has made repeated pleas for their release.

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Tug of war

Mali's interim President Assimi Goita this month accused Ivory Coast of providing asylum to political figures wanted by his junta and called for a "mutually beneficial" solution to the row.

Coulibaly on Wednesday called Goita's comments on a solution "unacceptable blackmail."

Mali has for a decade relied on regional allies and peacekeepers to contain an insurgency that has killed thousands of people and taken over large areas of the centre and north.

But Goita has quarrelled with neighbours and allies since taking power.

Former colonial power France pulled troops out last month, ending a 10-year mission, after a protracted row about air space, troop movements and Mali's decision to ally with Russian mercenaries from the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group, hundreds of which are now working alongside Mali's army.

ECOWAS imposed strict sanctions on Mali this year, weakening its fragile economy. It lifted them in July after rulers agreed to a 24-month transition to civilian rule.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies