Chancellor Angela Merkel's Social Democrat (SPD) rival said today he would model his campaign for the September 24 federal election on that of Emmanuel Macron, an outsider who was voted in as French President two weeks ago.
Reaffirming a commitment for France's troops to remain "until the day there is no more Islamic terrorism in the region and the full sovereignty of the Sahel is restored, not before", Macron also had warm words for American military cooperation in Africa.
The president said he and Merkel had agreed to "strengthen our cooperation further to help the countries of the region". He said he had discussed Mali with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday and the two made a decision to "strengthen our cooperation further to help the countries of the region".
"As you've seen during the campaign, the presence of 50 journalists and a dozen (television) cameras can affect direct dialogue and discussions that the president has with the French people", he said.
French President Emmanuel Macron (R) talks with Defence Staff French Army General Pierre de Villiers (C) after flying over Gao during his visit to the troops of France's Barkhane counter-terrorism operation in Africa's Sahel region in Gao, northern Mali, 19 May 2017.
"Germany is very present in back-up operations", Mr Macron said.
France intervened in its former colony in January 2013 to drive out al-Qaeda-linked groups that hijacked a rebellion in 2012 by ethnic Tuaregs and attempted to take control of the central government in Bamako.
He also met some of the 1,600 French soldiers stationed there, on the largest French military base outside of France.
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Speaking alongside Malian President Keita, Macron promised that France would be "uncompromising" in its fight against militant Islamists in Mali and the Sahel. The rest of his day there Friday will be devoted nearly entirely to familiarizing himself with French troops who are combating West African extremist groups.
President Emmanuel Macron arrived Friday in conflict-torn Mali as commander-in-chief to visit French troops fighting jihadists on his first official trip outside Europe since taking power last Sunday. They are part of a broader mission, Operation Barkhane, comprising some 4,000 French soldiers in the G5 countries. The young French leader is expected to appoint a prime minister soon, The Associated Press reports.
Most of the extremist groups in the region trace their origins to al-Qaida's North Africa branch.