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Macron calls on Germany, EU to step up Africa military presence

French President Emmanuel Macron has called on EU allies to step up their military presence in Africa in the fight against jihadist groups. Macron's remarks came during a visit to a French military base in Mali.

France's new president, Emmanuel Macron, on Friday pledged that his country would step up in its fight against Islamist factions in northern and western Africa.

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 EU states to support military and development efforts in the region.

"My desire in the framework of our military involvement in Africa is to do even more with Europe, more with Germany, but in a pragmatic manner," Macron told reporters during a visit to a French military base in the northern town of Gao.

"It is vital today that we speed up," he added, with respect to efforts in the Sahel region, an especially volatile, mainly desert expanse.

Listen to audio 29:58

AfricaLink on Air: 19 May 2017

France intervened in Mali back in 2013 to drive out al-Qaida-linked militant forces in the north of the country. Since then, more than 4,000 troops have been deployed to hunt down Islamist cells across Mali and other countries in the Sahel.

Macron also promised French troops: "I won't risk your lives for nothing ... but my determination when in action will be total."

Gao, the home of France's permanent military base, was hit by a devastating bomb attack in January that killed more than 75 people. The attack occurred just days after former French President Francois Hollande had visited the base, and was claimed by al-Qaeda-linked extremist group, al-Mourabitoun.

Germany open to deeper military cooperation

Macron said he had discussed the security situation in Mali with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during his visit to Berlin earlier this week.

The president said he and Merkel had agreed to "strengthen our cooperation further to help the countries of the region. There is a need for the latest generation helicopters and armored vehicles. It is in that framework that reinforced cooperation with Germany can make us all more effective."

Germany already has a significant presence in Mali. In January, Merkel's cabinet agreed to send eight additional helicopters and deploy 350 more soldiers, taking the total number of German troops stationed in the country to around 1,000. However, given the constraints imposed on Germany's military, Bundeswehr troops are mainly deployed to provide military support.

dm/gsw (AP, AFP)

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