Published: Sun, May 21, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Why France's new president is visiting Mali

Why France's new president is visiting Mali

Fighting has also spilt into neighboring West African countries.

New President of France, Emmanuel Macron on Friday said its country would continue in the fight against "Islamist terrorists" in Mali, during a short visit to the country.

Macron, who took office as France's President on Sunday, went to Mali on his second foreign trip, after first visiting Germany for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, a traditional first trip for every new French leader in the past few decades. Macron vowed to maintain France's military operations in Mali and "be intractable" with extremist groups in the region.

Speaking during a trip to Mali, where some 4,000 French soldiers are deployed, Macron said France would work in close cooperation with Germany, but called on other European Union states to support military and development efforts in the region. Of those, 3,500 are French troops.

He was expected to visit a French base in the eastern city of Gao.

In January, Germany's cabinet approved the deployment of eight helicopters and 350 extra soldiers to Mali as part of the United Nations peacekeeping mission, bringing total German strength there to around 1,000 soldiers. France's new president Emmanuel Macron has chosen for his first offic. "I want to strengthen that partnership and make sure that this German commitment ... can be intensified".

Chancellor Angela Merkel's Social Democrat (SPD) rival said on Saturday he would model his campaign for the September 24 federal election on that of Emmanuel Macron, an outsider who was voted in as French President two weeks ago.

France intervened in 2013 to drive out al Qaeda-linked militants who seized northern Mali the year before.

Jihadists continue to control and carry out attacks in parts of Mali, an unstable situation Macron inherited from his Socialist predecessor.

The victims were soldiers and former fighters trying to stabilize the region after a 2015 agreement with the government.

France's new foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, is best known globally for leading the successful military campaign in Mali as French defense minister. "We saw it in Bamako, Mali, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and in Grand Bassam in Ivory Coast".

The Sahel, a politically volatile, mainly desert expanse stretching from Mauritania in the west to Sudan in the east, hosts a variety of jihadist groups and is seen as a springboard for attacks on European targets.

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