BRUSSELS (AFP) - Mali urged the international community to stand by its side to drive out the extremists as the United Nations, African Union and other global players met in Brussels on Tuesday.

“The threat concerns all civilised countries,” Mali’s Foreign Minister Tieman Coulibaly said as he arrived for talks to set a path back to stability and ensure the zone does not become a new breeding ground for terrorists.

“The entire world must gather around us to chase the jihadists from our soil,” he said as some 45 delegations from African and European nations, as well as donor and aid groups, gathered for an EU-sponsored meeting of the “Mali support and follow-up group”. “We need to prepare the future,” said a senior EU official ahead of the talks. “When a state falls apart it takes time to put it together again, like Humpty Dumpty.

“It’s going to take years to achieve the end outcome. But I hope it will only take months to achieve a secure enough environment.” At the top of the immediate agenda will be the dispatch of human rights observers amid fears of rights abuses and reprisals against light-skinned Tuaregs and Arabs accused of backing the Islamists.

Talks will also look at financing the deployment of some 8,000 African troops and speeding up plans for a UN mission to eventually take over the baton in Mali.