EU calls for ceasefire in north Mali
Brussels - The European Union called for an immediate ceasefire in northern Mali on Wednesday, voicing "great concern" over the situation in Timbuktu where Islamic radicals imposed sharia law.
The EU appealed to neighbouring countries and authorities in Mali to allow full access for humanitarian workers and supplies to the north after Tuareg rebels and Islamic militants marched across half the country.
The EU appeals for "an immediate ceasefire in the north" and "the opening of talks between legitimate Malian stakeholders and the rebels," said Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
The 27-nation bloc also calls for mediation by neighbouring countries, including the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), she told AFP.
Timbuktu was seized by the Tuareg and Islamist movements on Sunday, but witnesses say the Islamists took control of the historic city on Monday with the backing of al-Qaeda's regional wing.
Three of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb's top leaders were spotted Timbuktu, where the new rulers ordered women to wear headscarves and threatened to cut off the hands of thieves.
The rout in the north came two weeks after a military coup in the capital Bamako that was condemned by the international community and prompted the EU to suspend development aid to Mali.
But unlike the United States and regional African groups, the EU is not planning to impose sanctions on the junta leaders, Kocijancic said.
The EU backs "all efforts aimed at restoring constitutional order in Mali", she told a news briefing.
And the 27-nation bloc, she said, encourages "all political parties to agree on a roadmap for transition".