The UN Security Council has voted to end a decade-old peacekeeping mission to Mali, whose military junta urged the troops' removal as it aligns with Russia.
The Security Council voted unanimously on Friday on a resolution that will immediately start winding down the MINUSMA mission, started in 2013 to prevent a takeover.
"We deeply regret the transitional government's decision to abandon Minusma and the harm this will bring to the Malian people," senior US diplomat Jeffrey DeLaurentis told the Security Council.
But he said that the United States voted for the resolution as it agreed with the timeline for withdrawal. Under longstanding UN practice, a peacekeeping mission needs the approval of the host country.
As the Security Council voted, the White House accused Wagner's leader Yevgeny Prigozhin of helping engineer the departure of UN peacekeepers from Mali, and said it has information indicating Mali's authorities have paid more than $200 million to Wagner since late 2021.
"What isn't as widely known is that Prigozhin helped engineer that departure to further Wagner's interests," White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters.
"We know that senior Malian officials worked directly with Prigozhin employees to inform the UN secretary-general that Mali had revoked consent for the MINUSMA mission."
Russia's Deputy UN Ambassador Anna Evstigneeva told the Security Council that Mali had made a "sovereign decision."
"We would like to confirm our support for Bamako in its aspiration to take full responsibility and play the leading role in stabilizing the Malian state," she said.
"Russia will continue to provide comprehensive support to Mali for normalising the situation in that country on a bilateral basis."
The vote came two weeks after Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop stunned the Security Council by calling the UN mission a "failure" and urging its immediate end.
Mali's relations with the United Nations have deteriorated sharply since a 2020 coup brought to power a military regime which also severed defence cooperation with France, the former colonial power.
The junta has aligned itself with Russia and brought in the Wagner Group, the mercenaries involved in a mutiny against President Vladimir Putin last week.