Mali cancels Air France clearance to resume flights: officials
Mali’s ruling junta has cancelled the authorisation given to Air France to resume flights to the country, two senior officials and an air transport official said Wednesday.
It comes a day after Air France announced the resumption of flights from Friday, two months after suspending them following the coup in neighbouring Niger.
“The decision has been cancelled because the agreement was given without consulting the hierarchy,” said one official.
It comes amid heightened tensions in the Sahel as well as tensions between Mali’s ruling junta and France.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official added that Mali’s director of civil aviation had been dismissed, without saying on what grounds.
“There will be no Air France flight on Friday,” a second official said. “This must be done in a responsible and coordinated manner, all while respecting our sovereignty.”
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The air transport official confirmed that “authorisation has been cancelled”, without providing further details.
“It is clear that flights will not resume on Friday,” he said.
Air France on August 7 suspended its seven flights per week to Mali, as well as its five flights per week to Burkina Faso, citing the geopolitical situation in the region.
It came after neighbouring Niger closed its air space following a coup on July 26.
Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger are all ruled by military juntas following a series of coups between 2020 and 2023.
They are also plagued by jihadist insurgencies and violence.
The three countries’ relationships with former colonial power France have significantly deteriorated since the coups.
Mali cancelled Air France’s authorisation after the company suspended its flights.
Air France on Tuesday said it would resume service to the Malian capital Bamako from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport with three direct flights per week on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
It was to use crew members and a Boeing 777-200 ER from the Portuguese company EuroAtlantic Airways.
France’s foreign ministry has “formally” advised French citizens not to go to Mali, including aircrew, due to the security situation.
Mali’s junta has made the restoration of sovereignty one of its mantras.
In the face of jihadist insurgencies, the three Sahel countries have blamed France, historically an ally, for many of their struggles.
France’s troops and ambassadors are being pushed out of the countries.
Following hostile demonstrations in the capitals, France in August updated its travel advisories to include the three cities in its “red zone”, which already covered most of the region.