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Africa

French defence minister in Sahel countries to push regional strategy

media French defence minister Florence Parly as she leaves the hotel Matignon after a meeting in Paris Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

French defence minister Florence Parly arrived in Chad on Sunday, at the start of a tour of three Sahel countries, assuring that French troops in the region will have the means to carry out their mission against jihadist insurgents.

"You can count on my determination that you will have the necessary means to carry out your mission," she told the head of Operation Barkhane - a 4,000-man French mission to shore up fragile Sahel countries against jihadist bombings, shootings and kidnappings.

"It's my fight, it's less risky than yours, of course," she added.

Parly was beginning a two-day swing of the region, during which she will be joined by German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen in a joint show of support for the initiative.

Parly "will reaffirm France's support for the emergence of a joint G5 Sahel force [...] tasked with playing a key role in fighting terrorism and trafficking which are contributing to instability in the region," the French defence ministry said in a statement ahead of her arrival.

After meeting Chadian President Idriss Deby in Ndjamena, Parly will heald for talks in Niger with head of state Mahamadou Issoufou and with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in Mali.

The planned G5 Sahel anti-terror force would gather Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger in a 5,000-man joint unit.

France is trying to muster international support for the estimated 423 million euros it will cost, as the participating countries rank among the poorest nations in the world.

French President Emmanuel Macron has won a commitment -- yet to be detailed -- from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to support the scheme.

Von der Leyen will join Parly in Niger and Mali where they will "seize the opportunity to show their support for providing equipment and training for the G5 force, as well as their active efforts to mobilise European and international partners to support their action," the French defence ministry said.

- with AFP

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