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Macron, Sahel G5 leaders to meet in France in January

Malian soldiers, part of the joint military force the G5 Sahel, on patrol in central Mali on November 2, 2017.
Malian soldiers, part of the joint military force the G5 Sahel, on patrol in central Mali on November 2, 2017. Daphné Benoit/AFP

France and Sahel G5 leaders have agreed to meet on January 13 in Pau, southwestern France, a meeting that was initially due to take place in France this month, the French presidency said.

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The decision to postpone the event, set to address the French military presence in the region as well as the fight against jihadist organizations, follows an attack on a remote military camp in Niger that killed at least 70 soldiers.

Some of the G5 countries have reacted coolly to the invitation, seeing the summit as an ultimatum from Paris. Still, according to the Élysée, all five Sahel countries have confirmed the new date, with the presidents of each country expected to attend: Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta of Mali, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré of Burkina Faso, Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, Idriss Déby of Chad and Mohamed Ould Ghazouani of Mauritania.

Besides clarifying whether the G5 countries want French troops to remain there, the meeting also aims to “lay the groundwork for increased international support” to the Sahel, said the Élysée in a press release.

To this end, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, African Union Commission President Moussa Faki, European Council President Charles Michel and Vice-President of the European Commission and High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrel have also been invited.

France has for months been calling on European allies to support its “Barkhane” mission in the Sahel. The mission has faced mounting anti-French sentiment, with morale facing a further blow when a helicopter accident in Mali last month killed 13 French troops.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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