Mali’s Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop has reiterated the irreversible exit of his country, Burkina Faso and Niger from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), despite reconciliatory efforts from the bloc.

The military leaders of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso broke away from regional grouping ECOWAS earlier this year and formed a confederation of their own on Saturday.

ECOWAS heads of state met in Abuja a day later and appointed the presidents of Senegal and Togo as mediators of dialogue with the three Sahel states.

Diop said Mali remained open to cooperation with ECOWAS during an appearance late Monday on state broadcaster ORTM.

But he spoke out against the possible introduction of visas for nationals of the three countries travelling within ECOWAS.

The three countries’ decision to leave the bloc was fuelled in part by their accusation that France was manipulating ECOWAS and not providing enough support for anti-jihadist efforts.

“Our heads of state were very clear in Niamey when they said the withdrawal of the three countries from ECOWAS is irrevocable and was done without delay, and from now on we must stop looking in the rear-view mirror”, Diop said on Monday.

Mali remains “open to working with our neighbours and other organisations with which we share this space”, he added.

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