By Bate Felix
DAKAR (Reuters) - The European Union and partners do not intend to isolate Mali and its military-led government, the EU's special envoy to the Sahel said, calling for talks despite a plan to severely sanction the country for failing to organize elections.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) hit Mali with tough sanctions earlier this month after the junta that seized power in 2020 dropped a proposed February election and said it would stay in office for another four years.
The EU has said it will impose its own restrictions in line with ECOWAS, likely later in January.
However, Emanuela Del Re, EU's Special Representative to the Sahel, said the door remained open for dialogue.
"The position of the European Union is to be firm on certain principles without closing doors completely," Del Re told Reuters in an interview late on Monday.
"We must continue to dialogue with Mali because we don't want to isolate Mali, we want a Mali that is capable of overcoming this crisis," Del Re said, adding that she had faith talks would happen.
The two sides have not made public any schedule for talks. Asked for comment, a spokesperson for Mali's government said authorities were also open to dialogue.
The existing economic and political sanctions have nearly isolated the landlocked West African Sahel nation, and cut off its access to financial markets.
Mali's government has warned sanctions could bring the struggling nation to its knees. Urged by the government, thousands of Malians joined street protests on Friday.
ECOWAS has said it will gradually lift sanctions if the junta presents an acceptable time-frame to return to constitutional order.
Mali has struggled to find stability since 2012 when a Tuareg rebellion in the north was hijacked by Islamist militants.
The insurgents linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State have continued attacks, killing hundreds and making swathes of territory ungovernable despite the presence of thousands troops from France and European partners, and United Nation peacekeepers.
(Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)