Macron's first non-Europe trip focuses on fighting extremism

Mali's president is warning that the French-led fight against extremist groups in West Africa, which he calls "an enemy with a thousand faces", is going to be a long-term job.

France wants a "new Franco-German impetus so that Europe plays a greater role in defence and security matters, especially in Africa and the Sahel", a source said.

At a joint news conference with Keita, he also asked Germany to provide more support to French-led efforts to eradicate the extremists. He said German Chancellor Angela Merkel told him she backs the idea during a meeting in Berlin earlier this week.

Several jihadist groups remain in northern Mali after occupying the vast region south of the Sahara in 2012, and they have been blamed for deadly attacks in neighboring countries that have alarmed the worldwide community.

The German government earlier this year approved an expansion of the country's military deployment in Mali, with Berlin sending more helicopters to support the United Nations peacekeeping mission there and raising the maximum number of German soldiers from 650 to 1,000.

Macron is visiting France's largest overseas military mission and following up on his campaign promise that fighting terror would be a top priority.

"France has been committed at your side from the start and what I have come here to tell you very clearly is that it will continue to be committed in the same way", Macron told Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Macron's schedule includes a closed door-briefing by commanders of Operation Barkhane.

Set up in 2014, the operation comprises around 4,000 soldiers who are deployed across five countries - Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and new French leader Emmanuel Macron discussed boosting poor ties between Paris and Moscow in their first phone conversation, the Kremlin said on Thursday (May 18). The eastern city Macron visited, Gao, is home of the permanent French military base in Mali, with 1,600 troops. Here's a look at Emmanuel Macron's trip on Friday to France's largest overseas military operation - in a country where multiple extremist groups pose a growing danger to the region.

Most of the West African extremist groups France is combating trace their origins to al-Qaida's North Africa branch.

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