Mali - Cote d’Ivoire – Nigeria – Diplomacy

Abuja optimistic about end to Bamako-Abidjan row

APA-Abuja (Nigeria)

Nigeria's top diplomat is convinced that the Ivorian soldiers detained in Bamako on suspicion of being mercenaries are innocent and the issues around their detention would be amicably resolved.

Foreign minister Geoffrey Onyeama echoed the words of UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, who pointed out that the soldiers detained in Mali since July 9 are not mercenaries.

According to Onyeama who spoke to the French media RFI and France24, the row over the detention of the soldiers was the reason for visiting Bamako on September 9, during which he was received by the president of the transition, Colonel Assimi Goita. 

"I was carrying a message from President (Muhammadu) Buhari for the unconditional release of the 46 soldiers," he said.

"On this issue, it must be said that there is no evidence that these soldiers were mercenaries. They came within the framework of the MINUSMA," said the head of Nigerian diplomacy. 

He admitted, however, that "there are certain rules that were not followed as they should have been".

Protesting against Bamako's demand to hand over certain political figures under international arrest warrants, Abidjan has asked the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission to hold an extraordinary summit on the fate of the detainees and is demanding their unconditional release.

On the sidelines of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly, which is held from September 13 to 23 in New York, the supreme body of ECOWAS will address the issue next Thursday to bring the two countries to overcome this crisis. 

"We will do everything to prevent a conflict between ECOWAS member countries," Geoffrey Onyeama said, adding that "the sub-region is already facing several challenges to which we should not add others''.

Togo, at the request of Bamako spearheaded a mediation that led to the release of three female soldiers on humanitarian grounds. 

Talks were to continue under Togolese mediation for the release of the rest of the detainees.

AC/te/lb/as/APA

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