Militants of the Ansar Dine extremist group sit in a vehicle near Timbuktu on April 24, 2012.
West African defense and foreign ministers have held a meeting in the Ivoirian capital, Abdijan, to discuss the possible deployment of regional troops to northern Mali.
The meeting was held on Monday after Mali's interim President Dioncounda Traore asked The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to help recover a territory in the north of the country occupied by Ansar Dine militant group along other armed groups.
"We have affirmed our willingness to support and encourage Mali in its efforts towards the legitimate regaining of its territorial integrity," Ivory Coast's Foreign Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan said after the meeting.
ECOWAS has been trying to put an end to the crisis by holding 3,300 regional troops on standby for months awaiting a formal request from the Malian officials to ask for UN Security Council’s permission for a military deployment.
Malian authorities, however, say that active military forces would not be needed and that West African forces must only provide logistics and air support.
"This is no longer the time for indecision but for concerted action," ECOWAS Commission chief Kadre Desire Ouedraogo said.
The crisis in the region started when rebels and armed groups took advantage of a March 22 coup and swept through northern Mali.
Since then, extremist groups have destroyed some of the mausoleums belonging to Sufi Muslims in the UNESCO-listed city of Timbuktu in the West African nation.
An international conference presided by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is due to be held in New York on September 26 to deal with the Mali crisis.