French and German support for a regional Sahel force to battle jihadists will persuade other European nations of the benefits of backing the regional counter-terror measure, Germany’s defence minister said Tuesday.
Ursula von Der Leyen spoke to journalists in Bamako after talks with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, arriving six days after a helicopter crash in the country’s north killed two German crew who were monitoring clashes for the United Nations mission to Mali.
Von Der Leyen said the discussion had centred on the autumn deployment of the force from the so-called “G5 Sahel” countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger), “and above all the Franco-German initiative to support it”.
Franco-German backing would ensure that other European nations “join in our support” for the 5,000-man joint unit, the German minister said.
France is trying to muster international support for the estimated 423 million euros ($480 million) 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.
France has 4,000 troops serving across the Sahel region with a counter-terror mandate, while Germany has reinforced its presence in Mali this year, deploying several helicopters and raising the number of Germans serving with the UN mission to 639 as of June.
The two German crew members killed last week were repatriated on Saturday.
Von Der Leyen joined her French counterpart Florence Parly in Niger before heading to Bamako.