Asharq Al-Awsat: “Russia seeks to strengthen its presence in Africa”

12:54 09.02.2023 •

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Bamako (AFP).

Russia is stepping up its policy in West Africa, where Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has made a trip. This is the first visit of a high-ranking Russian official to the capital of Mali, Bamako. This is a step that observers see as an increase in the Russian presence on the African continent. They also note what is happening in the western region of Africa, where French influence is significantly reduced, comments “Asharq Al-Awsat”, the world’s pan-Arab daily newspaper, launched in London.

Lavrov's visit coincided with the decision of the Military Council of Mali to expel the head of the UN Human Rights Mission. French news agency AFP reported that the decision came after a Malian-based human rights activist spoke at a United Nations meeting accusing the regime's "new Russian military partners of committing serious human rights violations."

It was announced in Bamako that Lavrov's visit would last two days and that issues of strengthening relations between the two countries would be discussed. The statement said that this is the first visit by a Russian foreign minister to Mali, which "is in line with the political vision of the Transitional government to expand and diversify strategic relations."

The head of the Russian Foreign Ministry met with the head of the Transitional government Asimi Goita, and a number of prominent figures of Mali.

The current tour of Lavrov in Africa is the second to the countries of the continent in a period of one year. Lavrov has already visited Eritrea, Angola, Eswatini, South Africa and Botswana. Now the visit to Mali and then to Mauritania. In the first tour, the Minister made visits to Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and Congo.

Lavrov's current visit comes at a time when relations between Mali and France are deteriorating. This was stated by French President Macron, who officially announced in September last year the end of the military operation "Dune". The French carried out this operation in the African region of the Sahel "to combat terrorism."

The authorities in the neighboring country of Burkina Faso also demanded the withdrawal of French troops.

Dr. Muhammad Yusuf al-Hassan, a political scientist specializing in African affairs, believes that the visit of the Russian Foreign Minister takes place as part of the aggravation of relations between Russia and France, especially in Central Africa.

Al-Hassan said that Russia seeks to strengthen its presence in West Africa "to establish itself as a main figure in the equation of influence by reducing the French presence in the region."


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