MOSCOW, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- The international community must increase its efforts to prevent the conflict in Mali from escalating, Russian Foreign Ministry officials said Friday.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Romano Prodi, the U.N. special envoy to the region, said the international community must work together to end the fighting between Islamic extremists and Mali government troops, RIA Novosti reported.
Lavrov and Prodi met in Moscow to discuss the fighting in Mali.
"It was agreed that a lack of control over the spread of weapons in the region after the Libya conflict has created the basis for an escalation in tensions throughout the Sahel region," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
French troops were deployed to Mali, a former colony of France, to help the African state's army battle rebels who seized control of the northern part of the country and have pressed southward. French and Malian troops battled the insurgents in Gao Thursday, just weeks before France plans to withdraw some of its 4,000 troops in the country.