Mali is a key nation in Africa, and the situation there affects security in all of Europe, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser (SDE) said following the Estonian government's approval on Thursday of a status of forces agreement with Mali.
"The situation in Africa and specifically in Mali as one of the key nations of that continent affects the security of all of Europe," Mikser said, referring primarily to the spread of terrorism and illegal trade. "It is of utmost importance currently to focus on ensuring people's security and fighting extremist groups in Mali, otherwise no progress will be made in implementing the peace agreement and reconstruction. Estonia is ready to increase its contributions to this effort."
According to the minister, Estonia's participation in the anti-terrorist Operation Barkhane is also a sign of close defence-related cooperation with France.
Commenting on the agreement approved by the government, Mikser said the aim was to make it as similar as possible to the French-Malian status of forces agreement. "This helps ensure that it can be implemented as effectively as possible in conjunction with the French armed forces," he explained.
The agreement sets out the privileges, immunity and concessions granted to Estonian troops, provisions for their entry into Malian territory and movement therein, possession and carrying of weapons, and responsibility in the event of damage.
An Estonian infantry platoon that will be serving in the French-led Operation Barkhane is scheduled to deploy to Mali at the beginning of July. Estonia's participation in the operation is planned to last for one year. The costs of the mission are planned at €4.8 milion.
The Riigikogu in May gave the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) permission to use up to 50 active service personnel in Operation Barkhane.
Editor: Aili Vahtla