Mali gave the French ambassador 72 hours notice on Monday to leave the country after “hostile and outrageous” comments by former colonial power France about its transitional government, it said in a statement read on national television.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had said on Friday that Mali’s military government was “out of control” amid escalating tensions between the West African state and its European partners following two coups.
Le Drian also called the military government illegitimate. French Defence Minister Florence Parly said on Saturday that French troops would not stay in Mali if the price was too high.
“The Malian government vigorously condemns and rejects these remarks, which are contrary to the development of friendly relations between nations,” a statement read over state television said.
“The government of the Republic of Mali informs the national and international public that today … the ambassador of France in Bamako, his excellency Joel Meyer … was notified of the decision of the government asking him to leave the national territory within 72 hours.”
There was no immediate comment from Paris.
France has had troops in Mali since 2013, when it intervened to drive back armed groups who were advancing on the capital. The fighters have since regrouped and are waging an increasingly bloody armed uprising across the Sahel region.
Relations between Mali and its former coloniser deteriorated this month when the military government went back on an agreement to organise elections in February and proposed holding power until 2025.
Rebel officers led a coup in August 2020 that toppled Mali’s elected leader Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who was facing angry protests at failures to stem armed violence.
It has also deployed Russian private military contractors, which some European countries have said is incompatible with their mission.
Mali asked Denmark last week to withdraw its troops belonging to a European task force in the country, which set off a fresh crisis.
France asked Mali to let the Danish troops stay, and Mali’s government spokesman told France to keep its “colonial reflexes” to itself.
Denmark stands in full solidarity with France,” Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said in a tweet on Friday.
European allies agreed on Friday to draw up plans within two weeks on how to continue their fight against armed groups in Mali, Denmark’s defence minister said.