Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Liberals Push End of Mali Peacekeeping Mission to August

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Liberals Push End of Mali Peacekeeping Mission to August

Article excerpt

Liberals push end of Mali mission to August

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OTTAWA - The Canadian Forces' peacekeeping mission in Mali is going to last a little longer than previously planned -- but not as long as the United Nations hoped.

Canada's operations in the African nation were supposed to cease at the end of July and the eight helicopters and 250 military personnel providing transportation and logistics help in a UN mission there were to come home.

The UN had asked Canada to stay until October, when Romanian troops take over, to minimize a gap in providing lifesaving medical evacuations for injured UN peacekeepers.

Global Affairs Canada said Friday that operations will wind down after July 31 and gradually be restricted to only medical evacuations until Aug. 31.

A small Canadian transition team will help Romania set up its operations, including the use of C-17 airplanes to help get troops and equipment into the country.

The department said in a statement that the decision reflects strategic advice from the Canadian Forces and should "minimize disruption" in medical evacuation services.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan insisted the announcement doesn't mean the government is extending the mission.

"Up until the end of July, we will maintain all the missions that we've been conducting. However, to conduct a smooth transition we are going to be focusing strictly on medical evacuations so we can start doing that transition," he told reporters outside the House of Commons. "And this will allow for that gradual handover."

The six-year-old United Nations mission in Mali is trying to stabilize the country after a rebellion and a coup. It includes about 16,500 personnel, mostly from other African countries.

Since Canadian troops arrived last July, they have done 10 medical evacuations, Global Affairs said.

The government also said that Canadian helicopters have also spent more than 3,000 hours in the air, moving 6,400 passengers and almost 168,000 kilograms -- or more than 370,000 pounds -- of cargo. …

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