State to decide on mission to Mali


Ireland will take a decision shortly on whether to send personnel to Mali as part of a European Union training mission to the region, Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton said yesterday.

Ms Creighton was speaking after a specially convened meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels at which it was agreed to send an EU training mission to the west African country. The mission – which had been in the planning for some months – aims to provide training and support to the Malian armed forces. About 450 staff will be sent to the region by the middle of next month. Ireland is already involved in a similar operation in Somalia.

Support for France

Yesterday EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton strongly endorsed France’s intervention in Mali. “France is not alone. France is a key part of the European Union, and France has acted in exactly the right way,” she said.

“France is a key driver of the Sahel strategy, working very closely with the services of the European Union and with colleagues across the member states. They have an extraordinarily important contribution to make in the military action that President Hollande decided was necessary and it was. The union’s role is to come and support France in its operations.”

Ms Ashton also highlighted the need for elections in Mali following discussions with its foreign minister, Tieman Hubert Coulibaly, earlier in the day. The Malian interim government took power last year following a military coup.

The EU is currently withholding some long-term aid to the African country, though it has disbursed emergency and humanitarian funds. Ireland provided more than €11 million in humanitarian funding to the Sahel region – the semi-arid region of north Africa – between 2009 and 2011.