Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Emmanuel Macron visits French troops posted to Mali on anti-jihad mission

Emmanuel Macron visits French troops posted to Mali on anti-jihad mission

Speaking alongside Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita at the Gao military base in the north of the country where some 1,600 troops are based, Macron also said France was determined to act for continued security in the region, and would seek to strengthen cooperation with France's European Union partner Germany to that end.

President Emmanuel Macron arrived Friday in conflict-torn Mali as commander-in-chief to visit French troops fighting jihadists on his first official trip outside Europe since taking power last Sunday.

He was met by Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita with whom he held talks on the fight against "terrorism".

The French president is visiting the eastern city of Gao, home of the permanent French military base in Mali.

Set up in 2014, the operation comprises around 4,000 soldiers who are deployed across five countries - Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso.

Macron's predecessor Francois Hollande said in January that France would boost the AFD's budget for Africa by 15 percent over the coming years to 23 billion euros ($25.7 billion).

Macron is travelling with Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who as the former defence minister knows Gao well, and his replacement in that job, Sylvie Goulard. That attack, claimed by the al-Qaida-linked al-Mourabitoun extremist group, happened just days after Hollande visited the city.

Macron was expected to emphasise the need for closer European cooperation in the fight against jihadists, especially with fellow EU heavyweight Germany, French officials said.

Germany now contributes 550 troops to the multi-national United Nations force in Mali, called MINUSMA. Macron said he spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier this week about getting more logistical support and said Merkel backs the idea.

Stationed in Mali since July 2013, MINUSMA has just over 12,000 military and police personnel working on what is considered the UN's most risky active peacekeeping deployment.

"Our objective in the short-term is to help the regional armies control their territory, especially the fragile border zones", a French diplomat told Reuters news agency.

Macron, a newcomer to global diplomacy, put counter-terrorism at the top of his security priorities during the election campaign, vowing to strengthen support for West African allies.

The Kremlin was widely seen as backing Macron's far-right opponent Marine Le Pen, with Putin hosting her during a surprise visit to Moscow in the run-up to the election.

Like this: