French and Malian envoys brief MPs on Mali conflict

The French and Malian ambassadors to Canada briefed MPs on the situation in Mali during a foreign affairs and international development committee imeeting n Ottawa on Thursday.

No further contributions from Canada to Mali requested

There was little sign Thursday of any need for further help for Mali from Canada. Previously, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird met with Philippe Zeller, France’s ambassador to Canada, back right, and Traoré Ami Diallo, Mali’s ambassador to Canada. The envoys briefed MPs Wednesday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The French and Malian ambassadors to Canada briefed members of Parliament Thursday on the situation in Mali during a foreign affairs and international development committee meeting in Ottawa.

Philippe Zeller, the French ambassador to Canada, said France's intervention in Mali has already cost the debt-laden country €70 million since it was launched on Jan. 11.

Traoré Ami Diallo, Mali's ambassador to Canada, said her government was committed to implementing a political roadmap that includes free and democratic elections on July 31.

While Diallo said there continues to be an "urgent need" for action, neither she nor the French diplomat expressed any need for further contributions from Canada.

Nevertheless, Zeller said France very much appreciated Canada's contribution of a C-17 to the French intervention in Mali until Feb.15.

When Paul Dewar, the NDP's foreign affairs critic, asked Zeller how much longer France needed the military transport plane, Zeller said Canada's deadline of Feb. 15 was "appropriate."

The French ambassador made it a point to thank Canada for its "timeliness" in dispatching the massive cargo-lifter, saying it was "operational" on Jan. 17 —  at the exact moment when they needed it.

Zeller said the European Training Mission in Mali (EUTM) which will train and advise the military in Mali, and be headquartered in Bamako, is expected to get underway next week on Feb. 12.

To date, 15 out of 27 European Union-member countries have agreed to take part in the mission, which will consist of 500 soldiers including 150 trainers.

France will contribute 200 soldiers to the EUTM.

Zeller confirmed that international donors have contributed €377 million to the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA).

John McKay, the Liberal defence critic, asked Zeller whether France had asked Canada to contribute to AFISMA.

Zeller said France had not directly asked Canada to support AFISMA.

During Tuesday's "take-note" debate on the conflict in Mali, Bob Dechert, parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, reiterated that Canada would not take part of combat operations.

Canada's C-17 contribution to the French intervention in Mali is costing taxpayers roughly $18.6 million.

France's military mission in Mali is expected to end in March.