Mali claims that the French company inappropriately suspended operations.
Flights by French national carrier Air France to Mali will remain suspended until a review of a previous authorization is completed, the West African country’s military government announced on Wednesday.
“Flights were unilaterally suspended by the company without informing authorities and customers in a manner appropriate in advance,” the Malian Transport Ministry said in the statement published by local media, adding that it remains committed to “defending Mali’s sovereignty.”
The decision came a day after Air France announced it would resume flights to Mali beginning on Friday, a route that had been halted in August, in response to the coup in neighboring Niger. It planned to resume operations using “a Boeing 777-200 ER belonging to Portuguese carrier EuroAtlantic Airways,” rather than its own planes.
The airline told the French state-funded agency AFP that its return to Bamako was “in coordination with the French DGAC [Directorate General of Civil Aviation] and the Malian authorities.”
It had to backtrack on the move, however, due to a lack of air traffic rights from the Malian authorities.
Mali’s transport ministry said the National Aeronautical Authority was still “examining the request to resume flights made by the airline Air France.”
“Consequently, Air France flights remain suspended during this file examination procedure,” the ministry added.
On Wednesday, the Malian military government also fired Colonel Drissa Kone, director of the country’s aviation agency, allegedly for negotiating the French company’s resumption of operations without the prior approval of the “highest authorities.”
Air France said it has postponed the resumption of flights to Bamako until further notice “following additional requests from the Malian authorities.”
Relations between Mali and its former colonial ruler, France, have deteriorated following military takeovers in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
Mali announced in August that it had suspended the issuance of visas to French nationals indefinitely in retaliation for a similar action by Paris. The French Foreign Ministry has designated Bamako a “red zone,” citing “strong regional tensions” after the military in Niger ousted President Mohammed Bazoum from power in July.