Mali’s coup leaders meet mediators seeking return to civilian rule

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A general view of the meeting between junta leaders of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) which overthrew Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) mediators in Bamako, Mali August 22, 2020. REUTERS/Mamadou Keita
A general view of the meeting between junta leaders of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) which overthrew Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) mediators in Bamako, Mali August 22, 2020. REUTERS/Mamadou Keita

A key meeting on Saturday between Mali’s coup leaders and mediators from West Africa’s regional bloc seeking a return to civilian rule ended after just 20 minutes.

Tuesday’s overthrow of Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has been condemned abroad but celebrated by many in a country battling an Islamist insurgency and months of political unrest.

A delegation from the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) earlier arrived in the capital, Bamako, for talks aimed at reversing the overthrow of Keita.

Ahead of a series of meetings with the mutineers and other groups, the head of the delegation, Nigeria’s former President Goodluck Jonathan, sounded optimistic.

“I believe at the end of the day we will come up with something that is best for the people and is good for ECOWAS and the international community,” he told journalists.

The most-anticipated meeting was held in the defense ministry, where ECOWAS mediators in face masks sat at a long table opposite junta leader Assimi Goita, who wore a desert camouflage uniform and was flanked by other military officers in berets and fatigues, photos on Twitter showed.

The talks were set to last 90 minutes, according to a provisional ECOWAS schedule, seen by Reuters. But the meeting ended after just 20 minutes, a Reuters reporter said.

It was not clear if the schedule had been changed or talks were cut short. ECOWAS and the coup leaders, who call themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), have yet to comment on the discussions.

The presidents of Ivory Coast and Guinea are among those pushing for the tough ECOWAS response, one diplomat said, as both have faced violent public protests to their third-term bids and want the bloc to show it will not allow power grabs in its own backyard.

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