01/21/2013 13:39 GMT
BRUSSELS, Jan 21, 2013 (AFP) - The European Union offered Monday to host talks on the Mali crisis on February 5 in Brussels and said it had activated a logistical "clearing house" to back up an African-led military force in Mali.
"We have offered to host on February 5 a ministerial meeting of the international support and follow-up group on the situation in Mali," said a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
"That will be organised together with the African Union, (the regional west African group of states) ECOWAS and the United Nations," Michael Mann told a news briefing.
He gave no further details on the offer of talks, prompted by the crisis in Mali where French forces are leading a campaign to remove Islamist rebels in control of the north of the west African country.
French troops moved in at the request of government forces 11 days ago.
A 3,300-strong UN-approved African-led intervention force known as AFISMA is currently being set up but needs up to 200 million euros ($265 million).
The United States and Canada are expected to pick up a substantial part of the tab, with the EU said by sources to be ready to contribute around 50 million euros.
A donors' meeting has been set to be held in Ethiopia at the end of the month.
Meanwhile, Ashton said in a statement that she had directed the EU Military Staff to activate a so-called "clearing house" mechanism to centralise requests for and offers of logistical support to AFISMA by EU and others.
"It will act as a single point of entry for the registration of requests from ECOWAS via EU Liaison Officers based in Abuja in Nigeria, or Bamako in Mali, as well as for the registration of any support offered by EU Member States or third countries," the statement said.
"Possible logistical support to AFISMA can range from technical, material or advisory support to the provision of strategic air lift, planning and training. The 'Clearing House' will then allocate all requests for a final decision by the ECOWAS HQ," it added.
"This mechanism relies on voluntary inputs by donors and recipients but will ensure greater coordination of donor effort and coherence with other activities acting in support of the people and government of Mali," it said.
EU spokesman Mann also said a small EU team of "technical experts" would arrive in Mali later Monday to prepare for an advance wave of EU trainers for the Mali army who are to arrive around mid-February.
The 500-strong EU military training mission, which will have no combat role and be made up of soldiers from some 10 EU nations, will provide instruction to the Malian army on command and control, logistics, civilian protection and humanitarian law.
© 1994-2012 Agence France-Presse