Germany's defense minister has said German soldiers stationed in Mali play a vital role tackling the problems forcing people to flee their homes. Von der Leyen visited troops during a trip to the West African country.
Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen on Monday praised German soldiers in Mali, saying their mission was "very important for Europe."
"The more stable this part of West Africa is, the better we'll be able to succeed together in eliminating the causes of illegal migration," she said, after arriving in the capital Bamako.
Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world. The country's north has been riddled with conflict ever since an Islamist rebel group briefly seized control of the region in 2012. Meanwhile, the capital Bamako has become a hub for migrants from Western Africa hoping to get to Libya before crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. More than a million migrants reached Europe in 2015, creating a crisis that leaders are still struggling to address.
Need for reform
More than 400 soldiers from the Bundeswehr - Germany's armed forces - are stationed in Mali, considered the most dangerous of their deployments in Africa. Von der Leyen also used her visit to urge the Malian government to implement reforms, including steps to involve regional groups in decision-making and get rebels to lay down their arms.
"It's in our interest for Mali to remain stable, and for the peace process to succeed," von der Leyen said.
"The time that Mali has been given by the presence of the international community, including our own troops, means that as far as policy is concerned, they must actually implement and set in motion the promised and necessary reforms."
Around 230 German soldiers are currently stationed with a UN peacekeeping mission (Minusma) in the north of the country, while 200 soldiers have been deployed to the south as part of an EU mission to train Malian troops.
nm/bw (Reuters, dpa)