Morocco's foreign minister has said backing the Mali government is a top priority for Rabat and stressed the need to protect the strife-torn country's borders, in a television interview.
"Morocco is committed to the need to preserve Mali's unity and stability. The top priority for Morocco is supporting the Malian government in Bamako," Saad Eddine El-Othmani told France 24 in the interview broadcast on Thursday night. "Above all we need to support Mali's security by training their security services so that they are capable of protecting Malian citizens and the country's borders," he added.
Morocco's territory is separated from Mali by less than 300 kilometres (190 miles) of open desert and there are growing fears of a regional spillover of insecurity. African and European leaders were to meet in Bamako on Friday to work on the logistics of recapturing northern Mali from armed Islamists, who seized control of the vast desert region in the chaos that followed a March coup.
"We need to protect the borders of Mali's neighbours ... to prevent the flow of weapons throughout the Sahara, which aggravates drug trafficking and violence," Othmani said. "Morocco supports the efforts of ECOWAS," the West African regional bloc, as well as the United Nations, "to find a solution to this problem," he said.