French officials are calling the Mali intervention a success, after taking control of the last rebel stronghold in the region.
Defense minister Jean-Yves le Drian told reporters Thursday that "the French intervention has succeeded,” but cautioned that efforts to establish the autonomy and territorial integrity of Malian and African forces are still "ongoing."
On Wednesday, French troops secured the Northern Malian town of Kidal, just days after French and Malian forces reclaimed the strategic cities of Gao and Timbuktu.
The assault on Mali’s Islamist rebels has lasted for three weeks and, now, France is calling for peace talks between the Malian government and official representatives from the various rebel factions.
"Only a North-South dialogue will prepare the ground for the Malian state to return to the north of the country," Philippe Lalliot, a spokesperson for the French foreign minister, told reporters.
Earlier this week, Mali's parliament made a commitment to hold elections by July 31 and to begin negotiating with non-armed groups from the country’s North; such as the Tuaregs of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad [MNLA], who want an independent homeland and have accused the Malian army of "crimes against the civilian population."
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(Photo: AP Photo/Jerome Delay)