'Man of the people' Macron eats with troops in Mali as he vows France will be uncompromising in its fight against jihadists who pose a 'clear terror threat to Europe'

  • France's new president Emmanuel Macron, 39, visited his 1,600 troops in Mali
  • He said he would work with Germany to eradicate the terror threat to Europe 
  • Macron wants Malian government to implement a peace accord signed in 2015
  • It failed due to ongoing rivalries between armed groups operating in the north
  • Jihadists continue to roam the country, mounting attacks on civilians and army

France's new president dined with troops in Mali after vowing the country will be 'uncompromising' in its fight against jihadis who are based in the African nation.

Speaking at the Gao military base in northern Mali, Macron said he will increase cooperation with its EU partner Germany in a bid to eradicate the terror threat to Europe.

Around 1,600 French soldiers are stationed in Gao, France's largest foreign base, as part of the larger 'Barkhane' counter-terror force operating across the Sahel region.

The operation comprises around 4,000 soldiers who are deployed in five countries - Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso. 

France's new president Emmanuel Macron (pictured) dined with troops in northern Mali today

France's new president Emmanuel Macron (pictured) dined with troops in northern Mali today

He was seen choosing different options before sitting down with the troops of France's Barkhane counter-terrorism operation in Africa's Sahel region in Gao

He was seen choosing different options before sitting down with the troops of France's Barkhane counter-terrorism operation in Africa's Sahel region in Gao

President Macron later cleared his plate and looked very happy to have spent time with the soldiers

President Macron later cleared his plate and looked very happy to have spent time with the soldiers

This comes after he vowed to be 'uncompromising' in its fight against jihadis in Mali

This comes after he vowed to be 'uncompromising' in its fight against jihadis in Mali

Macron (pictured) said he will increase cooperation with its EU partner Germany to rid the terror threat to Europe

Macron (pictured) said he will increase cooperation with its EU partner Germany to rid the terror threat to Europe

Macron said he wants greater action by the Malian government in implementing a peace accord signed in 2015 which has repeatedly faltered in the face of ongoing rivalries between the patchwork of armed groups operating in the north.

'My wish is for us to accelerate' the deal, Macron said at a press conference, describing the so-called Algiers Accord as the top priority to ensure Mali's security.

Seventeen French soldiers have died in Mali since 2013, when Hollande launched an intervention to chase out jihadists linked with Al-Qaeda who had overtaken key northern cities.

Jihadists continue to roam the country's north and centre, mounting attacks on civilians and the army, as well as French and UN forces still stationed there.

Macron emphasised the need for closer European cooperation in the fight against jihadists, especially with fellow EU heavyweight Germany.

'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 journalists.

Germany currently contributes 550 troops to the multi-national UN force in Mali, called MINUSMA, forming the largest European contingent.

During his campaign, Macron spoke of his desire to re-calibrate France's role on the African continent

During his campaign, Macron spoke of his desire to re-calibrate France's role on the African continent

Around 1,600 French soldiers are stationed in Gao, France's largest foreign base, as part of the larger 'Barkhane' counter-terror force operating across the Sahel region

Around 1,600 French soldiers are stationed in Gao, France's largest foreign base, as part of the larger 'Barkhane' counter-terror force operating across the Sahel region

Macron said he wants greater action by the Malian government in implementing a peace accord signed in 2015

Macron said he wants greater action by the Malian government in implementing a peace accord signed in 2015

The peace deal has repeatedly faltered in the face of ongoing rivalries between the patchwork of armed groups operating in the north

The peace deal has repeatedly faltered in the face of ongoing rivalries between the patchwork of armed groups operating in the north

The new president discussed the issue with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday during his first visit to a foreign leader since taking power.

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 dangerous active peacekeeping deployment.

France wants a 'new Franco-German impetus so that Europe plays a greater role in defence and security matters especially in Africa and the Sahel', a source in Macron's team said.

During his campaign, Macron spoke of his desire to re-calibrate France's role on the African continent.

He was criticised at home for describing France's colonial war in Algeria as a 'crime against humanity' and 'genuinely barbaric'.

The comments were well-received in Algeria and other former colonies but condemned by Macron's far-right rival in the presidential vote, Marine Le Pen.

France has promised 'constant' military, diplomatic and political support with the help of the French Development Agency (AFD), he said.

Macron emphasised the need for closer European cooperation in the fight against jihadists, especially with fellow EU heavyweight Germany.

Macron emphasised the need for closer European cooperation in the fight against jihadists, especially with fellow EU heavyweight Germany.

'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 (pictured at his inaugration) told journalists.

'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 (pictured at his inaugration) told journalists.

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, as well as AFD chief Remy Rioux.

The French president said he would also attend a meeting of the G5 Sahel countries, the same nations where the Barkhane force has a presence, in the coming weeks.


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