France would decide by mid-February along with other European Union partners over its military presence in Mali, a day after the junta ordered the French ambassador to leave the country.
The expulsion of the French ambassador comes after allegedly "hostile" comments from French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and other officials, which has stoked doubts over France's military support for Mali, a poverty-stricken former French colony and ally battling an extremist insurgency.
"It is clear that the situation can't go on like this," government spokesperson Gabriel Attal told Franceinfo radio, adding that Paris and its European partners in the Takuba special forces mission would work out "between now and mid-February" to decide on any changes to the deployment in Mali.
Rebel officers led a coup in August 2020 that toppled Mali's elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who was facing angry protests for failing to crack down on the extremists.
The following May, the junta pushed out a civilian-led government appointed to oversee a transition period and named strongman Col. Assimi Goita as the interim president.
France and its European allies have been alarmed at the junta's reported decision to hire mercenaries from the Russian paramilitary group Wagner. Paris repeatedly warned that it would be untenable for its forces to fight alongside what it terms as "unaccountable mercenaries." It has already started scaling back the Barkhane contingent, its own 5,100-strong anti-extremists force in the Sahel.
The goal is to halve Barkhane troop numbers by the summer of 2023, with the French-led Takuba task force taking up some slack. The Takuba task force is to help train and fight alongside Malian units.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed a trade embargo and border closures with Mali on Jan. 9, a move backed by France, the United States and the EU.
The sanctions followed a junta proposal to stay in power for up to five years before conducting elections, despite an earlier commitment to hold a vote by the end of February 2022.