EU: Military role in Mali just the start

March 14, 2013 at 9:09 AM

BRUSSELS, March 14 (UPI) -- The process of healing political wounds needs to start as soon as possible to bring stability to Mali, European lawmakers said.

Mali in January asked for support from former colonial power France to help fight foreign and Islamic fighters. Control over northern Mali was lost to militants following a coup in Mali in early 2012.

European Parliament members discussed Mali's progress with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule.

Lawmakers said the French intervention "rescued Mali" but said more work was needed to put the country on the path toward stability.

"The political process must be initiated immediately and neighboring countries associated with it, as the conflict extends far beyond Mali itself," they stated.

Nomadic Tuareg rebels fighting alongside al-Qaida fighters may flee Mali, potentially destabilizing neighboring countries like Niger, noted Sebastian Elischer, an African researcher at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies, in a recent Foreign Affairs column.

European leaders said they wanted to coordinate regional efforts to stabilize Mali under a U.N. mission that would require a strong mandate. Political processes in Mali, meanwhile, need to develop if the country aims to recover fully.

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