West African bloc says it regrets Mali's 24-month transition decision

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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court signage and logo is pictured in Abuja, Nigeria February 16, 2022. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

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BAMAKO, June 7 (Reuters) - The West African regional bloc ECOWAS said on Tuesday that it regretted a decision by Mali's interim government to extend the transition back to civilian rule by 24 months while negotiations between the two sides were ongoing.

Mali's ruling junta, which first came to power in an August 2020 coup, issued a decree on Monday fixing the 24-month timetable, to be counted from March 2022. read more

The 15-member Economic Community of West African States has been pushing for a shorter extension of at most 16 months. ECOWAS imposed stiff sanctions in January after the junta said it would not organise democratic elections the following month as initially planned.

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"ECOWAS regrets that while negotiations are still ongoing to reach a consensus, the Malian Authorities took this decision on the transition," the bloc said in a statement.

It said an ECOWAS negotiator would continue to engage Malian authorities to reach a "mutually agreed timeline".

Heads of state from ECOWAS member countries met over the weekend in Ghana, where they agreed not to lift sanctions against Mali unless the junta proposed a shorter transition. They are expected to hold another summit before July 3.

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Reporting by Fadimata Kontao; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Richard Pullin

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