“We solemnly proclaim the independence of Azawad as of today,” Mossa Ag Attaher, the spokesperson in France of the Movement for the National Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), told France 24 television earlier.
And a declaration of independence has been posted on the group's website.
Where is Azawad?
But Longuet insisted that “A unilateral declaration of independence that is not recognised by African states would be meaningless.”
On Tuesday, as the MNLA and Islamist groups took control of all the major towns in the north, French Foreign Affairs Minister Alain Juppé said France was opposed to the establishment of a separate Tuareg homeland.
Attaher condemned the kidnapping of Algerian diplomats by Islamists in the town of Gao, dubbing the captors “a terrorist commando” and pledged to restore order in Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal.
Algeria has confirmed that an “unidentified” group has taken its consul and six of his colleagues to “an unknown destination”.
France, the UN and the US have expressed concern that the Islamist group Ansar Dine, led by a Tuareg chief Iyad Ag Ghaly, and members of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) seem to be playing a more active role in the rebellion than the MNLA.
The MNLA’s declaration of independence declares its support for the UN charter and its “firm commitment to creating the conditions for lasting peace”.
West African military leaders, meeting in Abidjan Thursday, have drawn up a “mandate” for a military force that could be sent to Mali.
Heads of state of countries belonging to the Ecowas grouping will have to ratify it make it official.
As the meeting opened, Côte d’Ivoire’s Defence Minister Paul Koffi Koffi said that Ecowas’s priority was not to fight the rebels in the north but to restore constitutional order in the whole country following last month’s coup d’état.