Defense minister Jüri Luik (Pro Patria) is in the West African country of Mali, where he met his counterpart Tiémoko Sangaré, as well as heads of the European Union and United Nations missions there.
Mr Sangaré commended Estonia on behalf of the Malian government for its contribution to ensuring security in that country, where Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) personnel are currently stationed.
The ministers discussed defense cooperation between the two states, as well as expanding cooperation to other fields, such as information technology, spokespersons for the Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday.
Mr Luik also met with the head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), and the mission force commander of the EU Training Mission (EUTM) Mali, highlighting that Estonian troops and their allies are striving for a common goal in the country.
"In addition to ensuring stability and security in Mali, we are also participating in preserving wider international security, including that of Estonia," Mr Luik said.
EUTM Mali and MINUSMA missions
Mr Luik also met with Estonian troops serving in the EUTM Mali and MINUSMA missions, thanking them for their contribution in ensuring the region's security.
At a meeting with Joanne Adamson, deputy special representative of MINUSMA, Mr Luik expressed his condolences regarding the terrorist attack in Northern Mali on Sunday, which claimed the lives of ten peacekeepers. Mr Luik told Adamson that Estonia will continue contributing to the peacekeeping mission.
Jüri Luik also met Brig. Gen. Peter Mirow, Mission Force Commander of EUTM Mali, and the ambassador of the EU Alain Holleville, discussing the main objective of the mission ‒ training local troops and supporting the political process, particularly in the general and local government elections in the country this year.
Motivated and professional personnel all round
Both Brig. Gen. Mirow and Estonian staff officers attending the meeting pointed out that local soldiers are very interested and motivated in participating in training. The main surround suitable equipment and middle management, it is reported.
Brig. Gen. Mirow thanked Mr Luik for Estonia's contribution, and commended the professionalism of Estonian troops there. Mr Luik added that the complex political and security situation poses a threat both to neighbouring regions as well as to Europe. By participating in several missions in Mali, Estonia is contributing with its allies to the stabilisation of the local situation, Mr Luik added.
Estonian troops have been supporting Mali via MINUSMA and EUTM Mali missions since 2013. From 2018, 48 EDF personnel have also been taking part in the French-led anti-insurgent mission Barkhane. Three staff officers have been deployed to the MINUSMA mission, and five staff officers and an instructor to the EUTM Mali mission.
One of the causes of the complex situation in is the activities of cross-border terrorist groups, causing crime and instability to spread across the Sahel region.
"The militias operating in the are are fragmented and in conflict with one another," Mr Luik said.
Mr Luik is scheduled to embark on a visit to Gao to meet with the Estonian personnel serving as part of the operation Barkhane on Wednesday.
Editor: Andrew Whyte