1. NEXT STEP

    France Seeks Malian Peace Talks

    French legionnaires who parachuted onto Timbuktu on January 28, 2013 to recapture the northern Malian desert city walk on January 30  at Timbuktu airport to board a plane to return to their base in Abidjan. French troops on January 30 entered Kidal, the last Islamist bastion in Mali's north after a whirlwind Paris-led offensive, as France urged peace talks to douse ethnic tensions targeting Arabs and Tuaregs.     AFP PHOTO / ERIC FEFERBERG        (Photo credit should read ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)

    Legionnaries in Timbuktu on Wednesday. (Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty)

    France on Wednesday called for peace talks between the Malian government and “legitimate representatives” of the al Qaeda–linked militants who had overrun large parts of the country before the French-led invasion. Earlier Wednesday, French troops seized control of Kidal, the last major holdout of the rebels. The militants had taken advantage of ethnic tensions between the northern and southern portions of Mali, leading a spokesman for the French foreign minister to insist that “only a north-south dialogue” will bring peace. But Mali’s secular president, Dioncounda Traore, has insisted that he will speak only with secular groups in the north—and has refused to have a dialogue with anyone from the radical Islamists who seized control of the north last year.

    Read it at Al Jazeera English