EU To Speed Up Plans For Mali Training Mission

Category: Politics / Jan 15, 2013 3:57PM EDT
The European Union will speed up and adapt plans for a military training mission in Mali to help the government combat Islamist rebels, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Tuesday (January 15). Speaking in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Ashton said the Commission had been reacting to the developing situation with governments planning to adopt measures to help the West African country. "Since the end of last week, the external action service and our Commission colleagues have put together a package of measures that will provide immediate and longer-term help to the Malian government and people," Ashton said in a speech. She did not give details of the measures, but said security threats stemming from upheaval in Mali extended to Europe. "That threat of course extends to the European Union itself. We are directly impacted by the situation there. Because terrorists groups based in northern Mali use this territory that they control for all kinds of traffic, for drugs and arms smuggling. They've taken many hostages, many of them originated from European member states. So under no circumstances can we be indifferent to the situation," Ashton said. Ashton is preparing for an extraordinary meeting of EU foreign ministers, expected to take place in Brussels on Thursday, and she was speaking as France hit Islamist rebels with more air strikes. The European Union has ruled out taking any combat role in Mali. It plans to send military trainers for the Malian army and expects the first trainers to arrive in late February or early March, although EU states are looking at a proposal to bring forward their arrival by about two weeks. -Reuters