Germany's Merkel in Mali to strengthen development, ties

A Mali trooper provides security during German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit in Bamako, Mali, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016. German Chancellor Merkel is on a three-day tour in Africa, visiting, Mali, Niger, and Ethiopia. (AP Photo/Baba Ahmed)

BAMAKO, Mali - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday that Germany wants to strengthen its co-operation 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 is expected to focus 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.

Unrest continues in Mali's north, and 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. Extremists who took hold of the north in 2012 were pushed from strongholds by French-led forces in 2013, but targeted attacks against peacekeepers and Malian security forces continue in central and northern Malli.

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 co-operation 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 co-operation of Germany."

A German official has said that on Monday Merkel will visit Niger, a major transit point for African migrants making their way north toward Europe. She will visit Ethiopia on Tuesday.

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