Macron vows to support West Africa against 'terrorism'
Jihadists have destabilised several West African states for years, with France intervening in the Sahel region from 2013 to turn the tide against them.
Benin's President Patrice Talon met with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, who is on a three-nation tour of Africa in a bid to strengthen political and security ties https://t.co/Ahb9tRrNGs pic.twitter.com/jqAzp74WM4— Reuters (@Reuters) July 27, 2022
The French leader was speaking during a press conference with his host, Guinea-Bissau's President Umaro Sissoco Embalo, on the final leg of a trip to West Africa where he sought to reset relations with the continent, where many countries are former French colonies.
France had "always respected" the position of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in regional matters, Macron said, as it faces both a wave of coups and jihadist insurgencies.
France will act "in the service of legitimate, sovereign states and this regional organisation as we believe our role is to help", the French president said.
The European country believed it should "contribute to the fight against terrorism everywhere in the region", Macron said.
Addressing the situation in Mali, the 44-year-old French leader said the responsibility of ECOWAS was to help the Malian people "build a stable environment" to fight jihadist groups.
Macron claimed the military junta ruling Mali no longer aimed to fight "terrorism", prompting his decision to withdraw French forces from the country.
Mali has been wracked by a deadly jihadist insurgency since 2012, while two military coups since August 2020 have exacerbated political instability.
Relations have soured between traditional partner France and the ruling junta, which has turned towards Russia and is accused of employing mercenaries from the private Russian security company Wagner.
France earlier this year announced it would end its military mission in Mali, Barkhane, which began in 2013.
ECOWAS suspended Mali after the military seized power, and in January imposed a tough trade and financial embargo on the Sahel country.
It lifted those sanctions earlier this month after accepting a timeline for a return to civilian rule by March 2024.
Bamako has accused the organisation of allowing itself to be used "by extra-regional powers", in a reference to France.
ECOWAS has been pushing for a transition back to civilian rule in Mali, as well as Guinea and Burkina Faso after military coups in all three countries.
Guinea-Bissau's Embalo announced the creation of a regional "anti-putsch force" without giving further details.
Embalo, whose country recently took over the ECOWAS presidency, survived what he called an attempted coup in February this year.
ECOWAS sent a stabilisation force to support the small Portuguese-speaking nation in June.