Macron visits troops in Mali, wants more German support

GAO, Mali: France will continue to shoulder the military burden of fighting militants in north and west Africa but Germany and other European countries can do more to help, President Emmanuel Macron said on his first overseas visit on Friday.
Macron’s choice of Mali for his first trip as commander-in-chief since his election on May 7 fulfilled a campaign promise to visit French troops fighting militants.
His visit underlined the importance he places on combatting militants in Mali and the broader Sahel region, who he said posed a potential threat to Europe.
“France has been committed at your side from the start and what I have come here to tell you very clearly is that it will continue to be committed in the same way,” Macron told Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
He said it was vital to step up the military effort because of signs that militants were re-organising and regrouping. “We will be uncompromising towards them,” he told a news conference in Gao, where some 1,600 French soldiers are based.
“France de facto ensures Europe’s security, in Mali and in other theatres of operations. But other countries can do more, in terms of back-up, in terms of development (and) partnerships for equipment… I want to strengthen those European partnerships, in particular with Germany,” he said.
France has been hard hit by militant attacks, which have killed more than 230 people on its territory in the past two years.
The Sahel, a politically fragile area whose remote desert spaces stretching from Mauritania in the west to Sudan in the east host a variety of militant groups, is seen as vulnerable after a series of attacks in recent months.
Former colonial power France intervened in 2013 to drive out Al Qaeda-linked militants who seized northern Mali the year before.
It has since deployed some 4,000 soldiers, known as the Barkhane force, across the region to hunt down militants.
That operation has paved way for the United Nations to deploy its more than 10,000-strong MINUSMA peacekeeping force to the West African state. However, security in Mali has deteriorated recently.
Macron said he had discussed stepping up cooperation in Mali with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday and she had been supportive.
“Germany cannot intervene, considering its doctrine, as quickly and as efficiently as France,” Macron said, referring to German sensitivities about sending forces overseas except for peace missions, in part due to memories of Nazi militarism.
But he said Germany could help in other ways.
— Reuters

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