U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has reaffirmed Washington's continued support for the ongoing French military mission in Mali during a telephonic conversation with his French counterpart, according to a statement issued by Pentagon spokesperson George Little.
"Today Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel called French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian to discuss issues of mutual interest," said the statement issued on Wednesday.
It said Hagel reaffirmed U.S. appreciation to the French for their active leadership in addressing security challenges in Mali, noting that Mali operations are a good example of building an alliance with common interests to deal with shared threats and challenges.
"Secretary Hagel also expressed his desire to meet with Minister Le Drian in person. The two leaders agreed to seek an opportunity to meet in the near future to discuss the global security interests shared by both countries," the statement added.
France began its military campaign in Mali on January 11 as the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) authorized foreign military intervention in the conflict after Islamist rebels captured several towns in central Mali and threatened to advance further into the government-controlled south.
French-led forces have since recaptured northern Mali from the rebels who had seized control of the region in April amid chaos triggered by a military coup. Paris recently indicated that it intended to hand over control of the military operations in Mali to an African-led force as soon as possible.
Incidentally, several Western nations, including the United States, Canada, Britain, Belgium, Denmark and Italy, have provided logistical military assistance to the French mission in Mali without getting directly involved in the conflict.
by RTT Staff Writer
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