In a move that threatens to strain ties between Egypt and France, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi said Monday he was against the French military intervention in Mali.
President Morsi has broken ranks with the international community at large over France’s intervention in Mali, saying he was opposed to the action out of fear it would sow seeds of unrest in the region.
Speaking at the opening session of an Arab economic summit in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh on Monday, Morsi said he had hoped for a more “peaceful and developmental” approach to the crisis in Mali. France officially intervened in the destabilized West African country on January 11, after Mali appealed to Paris for military assistance to help retake the northern half of the country from Islamist militants.
“We do not accept at all the military intervention in Mali because it will fuel conflict in the region,” Morsi said.
A member of Egypt’s powerful Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement, Morsi’s comments are likely to sour the mood with France ahead of his planned visit to Paris on February 1.
Members of the international community distanced themselves from the Egyptian president’s stance, offering their support, if not troops, to France.
Algeria, which has been loath to back a UN-approved African-led military intervention in Mali in the past, reiterated that it was against putting its own soldiers on the ground, but also said that the “integrity of Mali has to be preserved”.
Germany also threw its weight behind France, with Chancellor Angela Merkel stressing that “we cannot let them down. They are our partner,” however she also excluded the possibility of sending German troops to Mali for the moment.
Morsi’s statement came as Malian and French troops appeared to have recaptured the central towns Diabaly and Douentza from Islamist militants, halting their advance towards the south.