French President Emmanuel Macron held a news conference Thursday morning at the Élysée Palace, after African and Western leaders met in Paris on Wednesday night to start fleshing out plans for how to continue fighting Islamist militants in the Sahel region once France and its European allies begin pulling troops out of Mali. Follow FRANCE 24 for live updates.
10:15 am Paris time: Not the right time to end UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, says Ghana’s president
Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo on Thursday said it was important that a UN peacekeeping force continue to operate in Mali even after French forces pull out of the country and are re-deployed elsewhere in the Sahel.
The United Nations have managed the peacekeeping mission MINUSMA since 2013.
10:00 am Paris time: Mali troop withdrawal will take ‘four to six months’
France’s military withdrawal from Mali will take four to six months, during which time there will be fewer operations against Islamist militants in the Sahel, President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday.
“The heart of this military operation will no longer be in Mali but in Niger,” Macron told a press conference in Paris. Macron added that France’s Sabre special forces would remain posted in Burkina Faso, where a military junta is also in power.
9:53 am Paris time: African countries can’t fight Sahel terrorism alone, says Senegal’s President
The fight against Islamist insurgencies in the Sahel cannot be the sole responsibility of African countries, Senegal’s President Macky Sall said on Thursday during the same news conference. “We have agreed with Europe that the struggle against terrorism in the Sahel cannot be the business of African countries alone, there’s a consensus on this,” Sall said in Paris, standing next to French President Emmanuel Macron.
9:50 am Paris time: Macron ‘totally refuses’ to label France’s military operations in Mali a ‘failure’
French President Emmanuel Macron said he “totally refuses” to call French military operations in Mali a “failure”, during a Thursday news conference at the Élysée Palace. “I completely reject this term,” Macron told a press conference in Paris. Macron said that at the time, Mali had requested France deploy troops to counter an Islamist insurgency that was headed towards the capital and in doing so had prevented the state from collapsing.
He said instead that the attitudes of Mali’s ruling junta had forced France to pull out. “We cannot remain militarily engaged alongside de-facto authorities whose strategy and hidden aims we do not share,” Macron told reporters, adding he “completely” rejected the idea that France had failed in its former colony after an almost decade-long operation.
9:35 am Paris time: The Sahel is now ‘a priority’ area for Al-Qaeda, IS expansion, Macron says
Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group have made the Sahel region of West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea nations “a priority for their strategy of expansion,” French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday. “They are investing there and exploiting local causes in order to better pursue their global and regional agenda,” he said, therefore justifying an ongoing French and EU military presence in the region despite a pull-out from Mali.
9:30 am Paris time: Macron says Niger has agreed to host European troops
As France and its partners announced the start of a military pull out of Mali after a decade of anti-jihadist operations there, President Emmanuel Macron said Niger had agreed to host European forces fighting Islamist militants.
He also said the remaining forces would provide further assistance for countries in the Gulf of Guinea. “These states are increasingly exposed to efforts by terrorist groups to implant themselves in their territory,” Macron told a press conference in Paris.
9:00 am Paris time: France, partners announce start of military withdrawal from Mali
France and its allies in the Barkhane and Takuba anti-jihadist operations in Mali on Thursday announced a “coordinated withdrawal” of their forces due to “multiple obstructions” by its ruling military junta. In a joint statement, Paris as well as other EU nations and Canada vowed to pursue “joint action against terrorism in the Sahel region, including in Niger and in the Gulf of Guinea” by June 2022.
“Due to multiple obstructions by the Malian transitional authorities, Canada and the European States operating alongside Operation Barkhane and within the Task Force Takuba deem that the political, operational and legal conditions are no longer met to effectively continue their current military engagement in the fight against terrorism in Mali,” the statement said. The allies therefore “decided to commence the coordinated withdrawal of their respective military resources dedicated to these operations from Malian territory.”
7:10 am Paris time: Pull-out announcement expected ahead of EU-Africa summit in Brussels
Four European diplomatic sources told Reuters that an announcement on the withdrawal of France’s Barkhane operation and European Takuba special forces from Mali would be made ahead of a European Union-Africa summit in Brussels on Thursday.
The decision follows a deterioration in French relations with Mali after its military junta reneged on a deal to organise elections in February, proposing to hold power until 2025. Mali has also accepted a deployment of Russian private military contractors, dismaying some European countries who say the Russian presence is incompatible with their mission.
6:55 am Paris time: Macron to hold press conference on ‘France’s engagement in the Sahel’
French President Emmanuel Macron is to travel to Brussels Thursday for a two-day EU-Africa summit. But the French presidency announced he would first hold a press conference at 9am local time on “France’s engagement in the Sahel” at the Élysée Palace, where he is likely to make the formal announcement.
6:40 am Paris time: Macron hosts African leaders ahead of expected withdrawal
President Emmanuel Macron welcomed African leaders for dinner in Paris Wednesday ahead of an expected announcement that France is withdrawing its troops from Mali after nearly 10 years fighting a jihadist insurgency in the region. Multiple sources have told AFP that Macron will announce that French forces will leave Mali and redeploy elsewhere in the Sahel region.
The working dinner hosted by Macron on Wednesday brought together the leaders of France’s key allies in the Sahel region – Chad, Mauritania and Niger. Officials from Mali and Burkina Faso, the latter of which also recently underwent a coup d’état, were not invited.
Other African leaders were also present along with European Council President Charles Michel, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP & REUTERS)