Ireland plans to send up to eight troops with UK service members to train forces in Mali -- the first time the republic will have made a joint deployment with the UK since Ireland broke away last century, Ireland's defense ministry said.
"I believe that the provision of a joint UK/Ireland contingent is another step in the normalization of relations between" the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, Ireland Defense Minister Alan Shatter said Wednesday.
"In that sense, it is an historic step and provides a tangible manifestation of the very positive relationship and the mutual respect that now exists between our two countries," he said.
The mission would be part of a European Union plan to train Malian government troops. That plan is a portion of a wider international effort to prevent Islamist rebels from turning the Malian democracy into a haven for international terrorists.
France last month sent 2,150 soldiers to lead an offensive against the Islamist militants at Mali's request, but the EU mission will focus on training Malian infantry.
The mission will include four teams totaling 200 training personnel. One of the teams will be the joint Anglo-Irish force; the others would be staffed by French and Nordic troops, Ireland's defense ministry said.
The mission would deploy by mid-March, and Ireland's involvement is subject to formal government approval, the defense ministry said. Shatter made the announcement after meeting in Dublin with the UK's minister for international security strategy.