TALLINN - Estonia's Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet and the defense ministers of France and the Czech Republic, who started a visit to Mali, met on Thursday with the country's transitional president, vice president and the minister of defense.
The three ministers met in Bamako with Mali's transitional president Bah N'Daw, vice president Col. Assimi Goita and Defense Minister Col. Sadio Camara. At the meeting with the country's leaders, Laanet stressed that Estonia's contribution to ensuring security in Mali and to the training of the country's defense forces is firm.
"The fight against terrorism, suppression of extremism and protection of human rights are important when it comes to the security of both Mali and Europe," Laanet said.
All three ministers stressed when meeting with the leadership of Mali that it's essential to move forward with the political process in Mali and to hold democratic elections next spring. Laanet said that the presence of the institutions of the state must be restored across the country and efforts stepped up to offer the main services to one's citizens, because improving of people's welfare will also reduce terrorism.
The Malian leaders thanked the three defense ministers for the contributions of their countries and confirmed that cooperation with the local armed forces and the allies serving in Mali is excellent. President Bah N'Daw also informed that despite the current complex situation, all preparations for the free elections next spring are underway.
The Estonian minister met in Bamako also with the head of the European Union's training mission EUTM Mali, Brig. Gen. Fernando Luis Gracia Herreizi, and members of the Estonian contingent who are providing training to the Malian army. Herreizi voiced appreciation of the contribution made by the Estonians and their professionalism. During the meeting, further strategic steps were discussed to ensure security in Mali and in the entire Sahel region.
"Protection of the southern border of Europe begins farther away than in the Mediterranean, the aim of the mission of EUTM Mali is to provide the armed forces of Mali with sufficient skills to suppress terrorism and extremism. This activity also secures our southern border," Laanet said according to spokespeople.
Estonia is contributing its forces to three operations in Mali -- the French-led operation Barkhane and its special operations task force Takuba, the UN mission MINUSMA and the EU training mission EUTM Mali.
France, Estonia and the Czech Republic are also participating in the Takuba task force in Mali, the aim of which is to improve training of the Malian armed forces so that the country would be able to control its territory itself and combat terrorist groups. The Takuba task force has been joined also by Sweden, the Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium, the UK and Denmark, and Italy is about to join it.
During the visit to Mali, French Defense Minister Florence Parly informed that the Takuba task force has achieved full operational readiness.