Start of her Africa trip in Mali, Germany’s Merkel seeks to strengthen ties

Start of her Africa trip in Mali, Germany’s Merkel seeks to strengthen ties

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday that Germany wants to strengthen its cooperation with Mali to improve development in the West African country’s unstable north to help fight against extremism, assure the implementation of a peace accord and stem migration to Europe.

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita greeted Merkel at Bamako’s airport where she spoke before meetings with him, other officials and the German representative for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali.

She focused on the implementation of a peace deal reached in June 2015 between Mali’s government, Tuareg separatists and armed groups in the northern part of the country.

“We attach great importance to the implementation of the peace accord. We will go into more details to see how we can help improve things more concretely, enabling our bilateral ties,” Merkel said.

Germany is contributing more than 550 soldiers to the U.N. peacekeeping mission there trying to help stabilize the country and fight al-Qaida-linked extremists as unrest continue in Mali.

Germany also is contributing to the European Union training missions in Mali and other countries in the region to help protect borders and fight against extremism.

“Development cooperation must be strengthened next year in all parts of Mali’s northern region,” including on water and sanitation projects, Merkel said, stressing that this could help with stability and therefore also prevent migration.

“The Mediterranean has become an open air cemetery, a situation we are not indifferent to,” said Keita, Mali’s president. “We will find an appropriate solution for a framework with the cooperation of Germany.”

Merkel will today, Monday visit Niger, a major transit point for African migrants making their way north toward Europe. She will also be visiting Ethiopia on Tuesday.

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