Mali, France suspend issuing visas in escalating row

Mali's junta responded by freezing new visas for French citizens at its embassy in Paris.

Published - August 11, 2023 03:14 am IST - Bamako

France and Mali have suspended issuing visas to each other's citizens in a heightening of a row between the former allies, diplomats said Thursday.

The French embassy suspended issuing new visas in the Malian capital Bamako earlier this week after Paris placed the country in a "red zone" of countries its citizens are strongly advised not to travel to.

Mali's junta responded by freezing new visas for French citizens at its embassy in Paris in an act of "reciprocity", the Malian foreign ministry said.

On Monday, the French foreign ministry issued a travel guidance update advising that "in the current context of strong regional tensions, all travel to Mali is strongly not advised. French citizens in Mali are urged to show the greatest vigilance," it said.

The higher security classification has entailed a "reorganisation" of services at the French embassy, which means it is "unable to issue visas until further notice", according to the French online visa service provider Capago.

In a statement posted to social networks late on Wednesday, Mali's foreign ministry said it had learned of the reclassification "with surprise".

It said it would apply "reciprocity" and suspend visas issued in Paris.

France and Mali fell out after the military seized power in Bamako in 2020, ousting elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita over failures to stem a bloody jihadist insurgency.

As the dispute escalated and the junta brought in Russian paramilitaries, France began to pull out its anti-jihadist force, under a phased withdrawal that ended last year.

The bilateral spat has coincided with a surge of regional tensions sparked by a coup on July 26 in Niger, a key French ally.

According to the Capago website, France has also suspended issuing visas in Burkina Faso, another one-time ally in the Sahel, which underwent two coups in 2022.

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