Mali suspends rotation flights of UN peacekeepers

BAMAKO, Mali — (AP) — Mali’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has told the United Nations peacekeeping mission to suspend all flights scheduled to move its forces after the West African nation detained 49 Ivorian soldiers who flew in to help with security for a company contracted by the world body.

“For reasons related to the national security context, the government of Mali has decided to suspend, as of today, all rotations of the military and police contingent of (the U.N. Mission to Mali), including those already scheduled or announced,” read the letter from the foreign ministry to the U.N mission and seen by The Associated Press.

The ministry says it hopes to meet with U.N. representatives to find “an optimal plan making it possible to facilitate the coordination and regulation of the rotation of contingents operating within (the U.N. mission).”

U.N. Mali mission spokesman Olivier Salgado acknowledged the letter and said they are ready for immediate discussions.

“The rotation of the mission’s contingents is of crucial importance for its operational effectiveness and the morale of its uniformed personnel. Everything must be done for its urgent settlement, especially since some of the staff concerned should have been relieved several months ago,” Salgado added.

Tensions have been high between Mali and the U.N. since Sunday, when the soldiers from Ivory Coast, who included members of special forces, were detained. Mali said the Ivory Coast soldiers did not have proper authorization to come to Mali and accused them of being mercenaries.

Ivory Coast has called for the immediate release of the soldiers, saying that all agreed-upon communications were made for their arrival.

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