By CGTN Africa

West African leaders kicked off a virtual summit on Mali’s deepening political crisis on Monday, officials said, after two efforts at mediation this month ended inconclusively.

Presidents of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), of which Mali is a member, are discussing ways to defuse tensions between the opposition and President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

“The meeting has started,” a source close to ECOWAS said. A source close to the Malian president confirmed that the talks had begun.

Anti-Keita protests on July 10 spiralled into clashes, leaving 11 dead in the worst bout of political unrest Mali has seen in years.

Keita has been in power since 2013, winning elections in which he posed as national saviour in the face of a regional rebellion.

Since then, the country’s problems have escalated, and anger is flaring.