French troops arrive at Bamako's airport Thursday Jan. 17, 2013. Over 600 soldiers arrived Thursday. Fighting raged in one Mali town, airstrikes hit another and army troops raced to protect a third, on the seventh day of the French-led military intervention to wrest back Mali's north from al Qaida-linked groups. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)AP2013
Madrid, Spain – Spain will contribute to the French-led European Union operation against Islamist militants in Mali by dispatching a Hercules military transport aircraft and as many as 50 military trainers, Defense Minister Pedro Morenes said Friday.
At the same time Spain, which will not send combat troops to Mali, agreed to open its airspace to EU and NATO aircraft involved in operations there, Morenes said.
At a press conference after the weekly Cabinet meeting, the minister explained the details of Spain's contribution in response to the French request for aid.
Sending the Hercules will be subject to parliamentary authorization.
"Spain has an obligation to take part in Mali" and must stand with its allies in a conflict that is "very important" for global security and for Spanish interests, Morenes said.
Asked whether the kidnapping of Western citizens working at a massive gas complex in Algeria was a reaction to the French operation in Mali, the minister said he did not believe that to be the case.
As to the purpose of sending the Hercules, its mission will be to fly into Mali some 3,500 troops from the countries of the Economic Community of West Africa.
About 50 Spanish troops will be deployed in Mali to carry out the instruction and training of the Malian army, as part of the EU mission.
The Spanish government on Friday designated Antonio Sánchez-Benedito, a senior adviser to the foreign ministry, as ambassador on special mission to the Sahel, the area just south of the Sahara desert where Mali is located.