President of Ivory Coast Alassane Ouattara has welcomed home 46 soldiers who were imprisoned in Mali, saying he hopes both countries can normalise their ties.
Ouattara received the soldiers after they arrived at an airport in Ivory Coast’s main city, Abidjan, on Saturday night.
The Ivorian soldiers received a presidential pardon from Mali’s junta leader Assimi Goïta. A Malian court had sentenced them to 20 years in prison for ‘undermining state security’.
Ivory Coast denied the allegation, saying they had been sent to Mali as part of the UN mission fighting terrorists.
Their detention, since their arrival in July 2022, sparked a diplomatic row between Ivory Coast and Mali.
Relations between Mali and the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, have been strained since the military staged a coup, overthrowing President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August 2020.
Ivory Coast is part of ECOWAS, and is regarded as one of the loudest critics of the coup.
The release of the soldiers followed mediation by Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbé, and an Ivorian government delegation visiting Mali to negotiate their release.
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