EU Foreign Ministers Back France’s Action in Mali, Ashton Says

European Union foreign ministers backed France’s anti-insurgency action in Mali, including potential offers of military support, at an emergency meeting in Brussels.

“There were a number of countries who made it very clear to France that they would be willing to help and support France in every way and they did not rule in or rule out any aspect of that, including military support,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told reporters after the meeting. “We were united in condemning the aggression of terrorist groups and in welcoming the quick response of France and other EU member states.”

France has committed about 1,700 troops to Mali, including 800 already in the country. Britain and Belgium are providing transport aircraft; Germany also may send transport planes.

The foreign ministers also approved an EU military training mission to Mali and called for an accelerated timetable for sending assistance to the West African nation. The mission, which won’t be involved in combat operations, should “be launched by mid-February at the latest,” the EU said in a statement.

About 200 training instructors will be deployed in the mission as part of a total staff of 450, with an initial mandate of 15 months, the EU said.

The ministers called on the Malian authorities “to adopt and implement a roadmap for the restoration of democracy” in the country. Malian Foreign Minister Tieman Hubert Coulibaly told a Brussels press conference that the roadmap should be sent to the parliament “in the next couple of days.”

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