The incident of the 46 Ivorian soldiers detention in Mali since 10 July was discussed at an emergency meeting of the Ivory Coast’s top security body on Wednesday, presided over by President Alassane Ouattara.
The National Security Council (CNS) condemned the “unacceptable blackmail” of the Malian transitional authorities, who demanded the extradition of some Malian exiles living in Ivory Coast in exchange for the release of the Ivorian soldiers, in a statement released on Wednesday afternoon.
According to the CNS, it has given the foreign affairs ministry the go-ahead to call an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis between the two neighbors and refer it to the West African regional bloc (Ecowas).
After three female soldiers were freed on September 3 as expected, Abidjan had hoped the crisis would come to an end. However, as of today, the remaining 46 Ivorian soldiers are still detained, and Mali is treating their case as a legal matter.
Authorities in Ivory Coast claim that Mali’s demand proves the soldiers are not mercenaries but rather hostages.
Several heads of state in the area have attempted to negotiate the withdrawal of the Ivorian military men through diplomatic channels, but their efforts have been unsuccessful.
The Malian judiciary accused the detained Ivorian soldiers of attempting to compromise the state’s security on August 15.
They claimed to be on a mission for UN peacekeeping operation in Mali, according to Abidjan, though (Minusma).