MALI said it would investigate the disappearance of several Mauritanians on its territory, which has caused a diplomatic row between the two West African countries.
Mauritania summoned Mali’s ambassador on Tuesday “to protest the recent criminal acts perpetrated by regular Malian forces against our defenceless and innocent citizens in Malian territory”, according to a foreign ministry statement.
The statement did not further lay out its allegations against Malian forces or say how many people were missing.
In a statement late on Wednesday, Mali’s government spokesman, Abdoulaye Maiga, said Mali would open an investigation and send a high-level delegation to Mauritania’s capital Nouakchott in the coming days.
“The government of Mali underlines that, at this stage, there is no proof to implicate the Malian armed forces,” he said.
Mali is especially dependent on the goodwill of Mauritania because its borders with most of its other neighbours are closed as a result of sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in January. Mauritania is not a member of the bloc.
ECOWAS imposed the sanctions after Mali’s ruling junta announced plans to delay elections meant to restore democratic rule after two successive coups.
Mauritania’s government said in statements this week that its citizens had been killed in the past by “recurring criminal acts” by Malian forces and that officials in Mali had made commitments to address the problem.
The United Nations has repeatedly accused Malian soldiers of summarily executing civilians and suspected militants over the course of their decade-long fight against groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.
The U.N. is currently investigating the mass killing of dozens of people in central Mali earlier this month. Mali’s government denied the army was responsible.