French President Emmanuel Macron and Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou on Thursday agreed to postpone a summit on France’s military involvement in the Sahel region after a deadly attack on Nigerien forces, the Elysee Palace said.
Macron had invited the leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger for the summit after 13 French soldiers were killed in a helicopter collision during action against jihadists in Mali in November.
However, the invitation, accompanied by a series of demands addressed to the Sahel leaders, risked coming across as more of a summons, a sensitive point in the five former French colonies.
Macron had said that he wanted the leaders to clearly state what they wanted from France, oppose “anti-French” sentiment, and do “the necessary political work on their side’’ to build on France’s military actions.
France has 4,500 troops based in Chad, Mali and Niger to back up local security forces against armed extremist groups that are active in the region.
Macron had called Issoufou to offer his condolences after 71 Nigerien soldiers were killed in an attack on a Nigerien military camp.
The Elysee said that the chief of staff, French Armed Forces, Gen. Francois Lecointre, would be travelling to Niger to meet Issoufou.
The two leaders agreed to propose to the other Sahel presidents that the summit, originally scheduled for Monday, Dec. 16, should be postponed to 2020.