France's foreign minister has warned his Russian counterpart against involving paramilitaries from the controversial Wagner group in Mali's conflict.
“On Mali, the minister alerted his Russian counterpart to the serious consequences of the Wagner group's involvement in this country,” the French foreign ministry said Friday.
Jean-Yves Le Drian met Sergey Lavrov on Thursday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
According to reports, Mali's army-dominated government in Bamako is close to hiring 1,000 Wagner paramilitaries.
France has warned Mali that hiring the fighters from the Russian private-security firm would isolate the country internationally.
The Russian company is considered close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Western countries accuse it of acting on behalf of Moscow.
Russian paramilitaries, private-security instructors and companies have grown increasingly influential in Africa in recent years, particularly in the conflict-ridden Central African Republic, where the United Nations has accused Wagner contractors of committing abuses.
France, which has thousands of troops stationed in the war-torn country, has pledged a major troop drawdown across the Sahel region.