Ivory Coast’s National Security Council says the 49 Ivorian soldiers arrested a month ago by Mali’s transitional government are “courageously enduring conditions in detention”.
Mali’s junta has accused the Ivorians of being mercenaries coming to “destabilise” the country.
But Ivory Coast says they were “unjustly” arrested as the authorities knew well that the soldiers were there for “legal and regular” reasons, as part of logistical support for the UN mission (Minusma)..
Ivorian embassy staff in Mali have met the 49 soldiers and later gave a statement saying they were in good spirits and had bravely endured the detention since 10 July.
Togo has offered to mediate between the two countries for the release of the Ivorian soldiers, but initial negotiations on 28 July in Lomé did not yield any progress.
According to diplomatic sources, Mali is demanding that Ivory Coast acknowledge responsibility and express “regret” for the deployment of soldiers without a legal framework and prior notification or consultation with the Malian authorities.
Bamako is also said to have asked Abidjan to hand over Malian personalities exiled in Ivory Coast and wanted in Mali – conditions that have been rejected.
On Wednesday, Ivorian Defence Minister Téné Birahima Ouattara met families of the 49 soldiers saying “very soon we’ll be able to achieve satisfactory results for their release”.