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Africa

Saudi Arabia pledges 100 million euros, UAE 30 million to Sahel G5 force

media European and African leaders at the Sahel G5 conference at Le Celle-Saint-Cloud on Wednesday REUTERS/Michel Euler/Pool

Saudi Arabia has pledged 100 million euros to help fund a five-nation anti-terror force in the Sahel region of west Africa and the United Arab Emirates 30 million, French President Emmanuel Macron announced at a special conference near Paris on Wednesday.

“We have to win the war against terrorism in the Sahel-Sahara region. And it is in full swing,” Macron told the international meeting, adding that “there are attacks every day” and government under threat.

The discussions started with a closed meeting between Emmanuel Macron and the heads of state of the G5 countries - Mali, Burkina, Chad, Mauritania and Niger - who then joined some 20 delegations for a working lunch.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was present, as was Belgian Prime Minister Charles Martel and Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Halbe Zijlstra, who pledged five million euros to the force's finances.

Those three countries are already involved in the rebuilding of the Malian army and in the UN peacekeeping force in Mali, Minusma.

Italy was represented by Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and the US by White House counter-terrorism chief Thomas Bossert.

Although it still opposes UN finance for the G5, Washington has promised to contribute 60 million dollars. But, to keep control of its use, Washington will deal bilaterally with each of the five countries and will donate military equipment rather than money.

France plans to withdraw

The G5 force has already led its first operation, along with soldiers of the French Sahel force, Barkhane, in November in the three border region between Mali Niger and Burkina. The operation also involved.

France has deployed 4,500 soldiers throughout the Sahel to fight armed groups. But, as it plans to gradually pull out, Paris has been pushing hard since February to mobilise increased international support to the G5 force.

And, in spite November’s operation, the force is far from being fully operational.

It needs political and military support but, above all, it needs finance.

France estimates the force needs 260 million euros a year, although that is far less than the G5 estimate of 423 million.

The Saudi and UAE pledges go some way to reaching the French target, at least.

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