AK: EDF personnel take part in Bastille Day parade

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The Champs-Élysées on Bastille Day, July 14 2021. Source: ERR

Estonian special forces soldiers took part in the official Bastille Day parade in Paris Wednesday, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reports.

The Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) special forces (Erioperatsioonide väejuhatus) contingent have taken part in French-led operations in the West African nation of Mali. Defense minister Kalle Laanet (Reform) was also present.

Close to 5,000 military personnel all told took part in the parade, up the Champs-Élysées on France's national holiday and in front of President Emmanuel Macron, while 25,000 people were permitted to watch, provided they had proof of coronavirus vaccination.

Bastille Day marks the July 14 1789 storming of the prison of the same name by the Sans-culottes, and is considered the beginning of the French Revolution.

Task Force Takuba, which the Estonians contribute to, is part of the wider counter-terrorism and human trafficking Operation Barkhane, which covers several Sahel nations including Mali.

A regular EDF platoon is also based at Gao, in the west of the country, on a rotational basis.

Laanet met with defense ministers from France and other participating nations in a tête-à-tête he said was: "Necessary, because France, in whose missions Estonia is actively participating, is reorganizing its military activities in the Sahel region.

"In order to achieve a common understanding regarding future of cooperation, we needed to clear things up with our partners," Laamet went on, according to a ministry press release.

Changes also take on board developments in Mali itself, including the transition to democratic elections.

"It is promising that the President of Mali has confirmed that he will comply with the agreements requested by the international community, including the holding of elections in February 2022, and the transfer of state power to the civilian government," Laanet said.

It is, however, too early to say how Estonia will proceed in light of the planned changes, he added. "We need to reassess the situation based on the discussion.

However, I can confirm that Estonia is satisfied with the cooperation taking place in Mali and, if possible, we are ready to continue participating in the future."

"The political situation in Mali is still fragile, and important steps need to be taken to strengthen that," Laanet noted.

Both the regular EDF infantry contingent and Task Force Takuba are French-led and take place in parallel with the EU EUTM and UN MINUSMA missions in Mali, which the EDF also contributes to.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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