PARIS (Reuters) – France’s armed forces and foreign ministers told their Russian counterparts on Friday that the deployment of Russian mercenaries to West Africa’s Sahel region would be “unacceptable”, the two ministries said.

“The French ministers expressed the unacceptable nature of the deployment of Wagner’s mercenaries in the Sahelo-Saharan strip,” the ministries said in a statement, referring to reported discussions about deploying Russia’s Wagner Group in Mali.

“They reiterated their messages of firmness regarding the risks of regional destabilization and damage to the interests of France and its partners engaged in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel.”

(Reporting by John Irish; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Hugh Lawson)