Germany flags stronger military ties with France in Africa
The German Chancellor says she wants to bolster military cooperation with France, particularly in Africa, as the French defence minister concedes the operation in the Central African Republic could take longer than expected.
In her weekly podcast, Angela Merkel said a joint cabinet meeting in Paris next Wednesday with French President François Hollande will discuss security issues in Africa.
"I agreed with French President Francois Hollande that we wanted to use the
Franco-German meeting to discuss new projects ... especially in the area of
security and particularly in Africa," Merkel said.
Earlier this month, Germany's government approved increasing the number of soldiers sent to crisis-torn Mali to 250 as part of an EU-led mission to train the national army for its fight against Islamic extremists.
Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen has also said she expects to send a medical services Airbus to back up the French mission in the Central African Republic.
On Saturday, French Defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian defended the decision to send an extra 400 troops to the Central African Republic, bringing the total number of soldiers to 2,000 eventually.
"I think it [the mission] will be longer than planned because the degree of hatred and violence is worse than we imagined," he explained.
Hollande said in December that he hoped the mission would end as quickly as possible.
Amnesty International this week warned that violence in the country has grown into an "ethnic cleansing" campaign, while the UN refugee agency has described the situation as "a humanitarian catastrophe of unspeakable proportions".