West Africa mediator visits Mali before key summit

West Africa’s mediator for Mali was in Bamako Thursday to meet the ruling junta, diplomatic sources said, before a regional summit in July to discuss whether to lift sanctions on the country.

Former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan was to “meet different Malian authorities towards seeking a solution” before leaving Friday, a West African diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

Mali’s Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop confirmed his arrival, without providing further details.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) slapped stringent economic and financial sanctions on Mali in January, following two military coups last year.

An ECOWAS summit on July 3 is to decide whether to maintain or lift those sanctions.

The regional bloc imposed the punitive measures after the Malian army said it would hold on to power for up to five years.

After ECOWAS piled on the pressure, the junta reduced that timeframe to two years.

Any lifting of the sanctions imposed on Mali is conditional on the country holding elections and swiftly returning to civilian rule.

Mali’s transitional parliament approved a draft electoral law last week, a measure designed to ease the move back to democracy.

But the bill must be approved by the head of the military junta, President Assim Goita, before it becomes law.