In a phone call with French Minister of European and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian a day after a terrorist attack on a military base in Mali, Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) stressed the need for resolute international cooperation in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism.
"Estonia's brave soldiers, alongside our French allies, are in Mali to support the fight against Islamic extremists, and through that, contribute to European security," Reinsalu said according to a ministry press release. "In today's world of globalized threats, their presence in Mali strengthens our own defense."
He wished a speedy recovery to the injured Estonian and French soldiers, and expressed his gratitude for their bravery in Mali. Le Drian, in turn, thanked the Estonian soldiers for their contribution to Operation Barkhane.
Reinsalu emphasized that Monday's attack in Mali against a military base where Estonian, French and Malian soldiers are serving further unites Estonia and France.
"The situation in the Sahel region is our common concern, and this attack, again, demonstrates the importance of counter-terrorist activities," he said. "The broad threat of Islamic extremism is forcing people to leave their homes, which in turn deepens migration problems, thereby directly affecting Europe and Estonia as well."
The foreign minister also thanked his French counterpart for the country's support and contribution to NATO eFP forces in Estonia.
On Monday night, suicide bombers attacked the French military base in Gao, Mali, where Estonian and Malian troops are also serving. Six members of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) were injured and needed medical attention alongside French troops.
Suicide bombers attacked the base with a vehicle containing an improvised explosive device (IED).
The attack took place at the entrance to the French part of the base, The Defence Post reported French military spokesperson Col. Frederic Barbry as saying. The attackers did not manage to enter the base itself.
Barbry likewise confirmed that the troops' injuries were not life-threatening.
A source in Gao had told Nord Sud Journal that Malian troops fired on a vehicle as it tried to drive through a checkpoint located outside the base. The occupants of the vehicle returned fire before the vehicle exploded.
Estonia contributing to several missions in Mali
Estonia has been participating in the French-led Operation Barkhane since August 2018. This mission aims to support the fight against Islamic terrorism in five countries in the Sahel — Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad. In addition to Operation Barkhane, Estonia is also participating in the EU Training Mission in Mali (EUTM Mali) as well as the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
Participating in international military operations supports Estonia's foreign and security policy objectives as a future UN Security Council member, the ministry noted.
Editor: Aili Vahtla