BAMAKO, MALI - After several airlines discontinued service to Mali due to new regional sanctions, the country's government has responded with its own economic threat.
Mali's military government Friday gave airlines 72 hours, starting Jan. 15, to confirm their service to Mali with the country's National Civil Aviation Agency or lose their time slots.
In a statement, Transport Minister Madina Sissoko, said that if airlines did not respond by the 72-hour deadline, "their time slots will be allocated to other airlines."
Regional airlines such as Air Cote d'Ivoire and Air Burkina, the national carriers of Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso, halted service to Mali after Economic Community of West African States sanctions were imposed following a special summit January 9 in Accra, Ghana.
The bloc, known as ECOWAS, had threatened sanctions if Mali's military government did not hold elections next month as previously agreed. Mali's leaders last month announced a plan to hold the next presidential elections in 2026.
The sanctions include border closures between Mali and ECOWAS countries and the blockage of transport of goods between the countries, except for such essentials as food and medicine.
France's national carrier, Air France, also halted flights to Mali this week, according to a Wednesday statement from the Malian Transport Ministry, after France backed the ECOWAS sanctions.