Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger have entered into a mutual defense pact, aimed at strengthening their cooperation against armed rebellion and external aggression.

The agreement, known as the Alliance of Sahel States, was signed on Saturday and commits the signatories to support one another, including through military assistance, in the event of an attack on any member state.

“Any attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of one or more contracted parties will be considered an aggression against the other parties,” the charter states. It also pledges the three nations to collaborative efforts in preventing and resolving armed rebellions.

Mali’s military leader, Assimi Goita, announced on his social media account, “I have today signed with the Heads of State of Burkina Faso and Niger the Liptako-Gourma charter establishing the Alliance of Sahel States, aimed at forming a collective defense and mutual assistance framework.” The Liptako-Gourma region, where the borders of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger converge, has been severely impacted by armed conflict in recent years.

“This alliance will combine military and economic efforts between the three countries,” Mali’s Defence Minister Abdoulaye Diop stated in Bamako, the capital of Mali. “Our priority is the fight against terrorism in the three countries.”

The armed rebellion, which began in northern Mali in 2012, spread to Niger and Burkina Faso by 2015. All three nations were previously part of the France-supported G5 Sahel alliance, which included Chad and Mauritania, launched in 2017 to combat groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS).

However, since 2020, all three countries have experienced military coups, with the most recent occurring in Niger in July, where soldiers ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, who had cooperated with Western efforts to combat Sahel-based militant groups.

The West African regional bloc ECOWAS has threatened military intervention in Niger following the coup, though it has recently softened its stance. In response, Mali and Burkina Faso warned that any such operation would be considered a “declaration of war” against them.

Relations with France have deteriorated since the coups. France has withdrawn its troops from Mali and Burkina Faso and is currently in a standoff with Niger’s new military leadership.

Additionally, Mali has requested the departure of the UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSMA.

Meanwhile, tensions have flared in Mali, with predominantly Tuareg armed groups resuming hostilities last week, jeopardizing a 2015 peace agreement.