Touré is expected to safeguard Mali's reputation as a regional mediator within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU). Despite fundamentalist pressures at home, he will likely stay the course set by President Konaré, projecting Mali to be a moderately progressive, secular state committed to democracy and regional cooperation. Donors are expected to maintain aid flows that will help Touré bridge domestic divisions.
The conflict in Côte d'Ivoire, and the Ivorian government's failure to contain the insurgency, have soured relations between the two countries. Rebels in northern Côte d'Ivoire killed several Malians within a government-controlled area of Côte d'Ivoire, and some 50,000 Malians, having been subjected to xenophobic rhetoric by the Ivorian government, returned to Mali from their homes in Côte d'Ivoire where they lived and worked for years. In response to periodic border closings and restrictions, Touré placed paramilitary security units at border crossings and in the interior to supervise the movement of people and goods. He also filed a formal complaint against the Gbagbo government in Côte d'Ivoire. Relations improved following the visit to Bamako by the Ivorian foreign affairs minister and his address to the Malian National Assembly. Subsequently, Mali agreed to participate in the six-nation ECOWAS group mediating the conflict, and will contribute 200–300 troops for peacekeeping operations in Côte d'Ivoire.
Relations between Mali and France generally are cordial. Touré's visit to Paris in December 2002 resulted in a cancellation of US $202 million or 38% of Mali's bilateral debt to France. Much of this debt had been contracted when Mali rejoined the franc zone in 1984, and the debt cancellation freed scarce resources for Touré's ambitious social-welfare program. Still, considerable tension between the partners has resulted from the presence of thousands of Malian citizens residing illegally in France. In 1996, relations hit bottom when the French undertook forced repatriation of African immigrants, and estimates in 1999 suggested that some 36,000 Malians were living legally in France, while as many as 60,000 were there illegally. Touré has discussed the issue with the French interior minister, who has advocated a mix of legal immigration and repatriation of illegal immigrants. Again, the prospect of fewer remittances—the lifeline for many Malians and an important source of national revenue— would stymie economic growth.