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Russia to help Mali improve military capabilities: Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop hold a joint press conference following talks in Bamako on February 7, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has paid a visit to Mali, where he reassured the country's rulers that Moscow would continue to help the South African nation improve its military capabilities.

Speaking alongside his counterpart, Abdoulaye Diop, Lavrov mentioned the delivery of several fighter jets and helicopters to Mali in August 2021, saying that more military support was assured.

Russia has delivered "very large supplies of aviation equipment" to Mali over the past few months, which has "significantly increased" the capability of local forces to fight extremists, Lavrov said.

"We will now be planning additional steps in the field of education through military higher educational institutions and in the field of supplies of weapons and military equipment," he added.

Lavrov arrived in Mali's capital, Bamako, early Tuesday. This is his third trip to Africa since July.

The visit is "the first of its kind" aimed at cementing "a new dynamic" for security and economic cooperation between the two countries, according to Mali's Foreign Ministry.

Lavrov also criticized unnamed Western powers for "neo-colonial approaches and double standards." "We see the reaction of the Western states on the evolution of our relations and we see with regret that it is again negative, a negative attitude of the West to the principles of parity and mutual respect," he said.

Mali's foreign minister said that Bamako had no need to justify working with Russia on strengthening its military capabilities.

Relations between Moscow and Bamako have prompted concern among Western counties, which accuse Russia of deploying a private security group known as Wagner to Mali. Russia's presence in Mali has expanded after former colonizer France withdrew thousands of its troops from the country last year.

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