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Pope Francis tells Emmanuel Macron to remember France's Christian roots

21 May 2017

GAO, Mali (AP) - On his first official trip outside Europe, new French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday highlighted his determination to crush extremism but said "other countries can do more" to help protect Europe from the threat. French President Emmanuel Macron, right, and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe leave after a family photo following the first cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Thursday, May 18, 2017.

Gentiloni is the second European leader Macron will have met after his installation last Sunday, after his trip to Berlin Monday to see German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Putin and Macron also stressed the importance of further cooperation to end the three-year war in eastern Ukraine, with France playing a key role alongside Germany as a mediator.

Over 4,000 French, UN, and Malian troops are stationed in five nations in the Sahel in West Africa, Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, in France's Operation Barkhane created to crack down on jihadists.

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"The Barkhane operation will only stop when there is no more Islamist terrorism in the region", Macron told journalists while visiting French troops stationed in Mali.

At a joint news conference with Malian counterpart Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Macron asked Germany to provide more support to French-led efforts to eradicate the extremist groups.

Macron's visit in Mali, an embattled West African nation connected with France through its colonial past, among other things, is first trip overseas outside of Europe.

He said he would also seek to strengthen cooperation with European nations, particularly Germany, which is the biggest contributor to the UN force in Mali, also known as MINUSMA. 332 people were killed in attacks in Mali past year alone, and plenty of questions remain over the assassination of two French journalists there in 2013.

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In March, the three main jihadist groups in the region merged under the command of Ansar Dine leader Iyad Ag-Ghaly, calling the new group Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimin.

Most of the terrorists in the region trace their origins to al-Qaida's North Africa branch.

France's new president also reaffirmed his commitment to helping the West African country, where French soldiers have been facing extremists since 2013.

The victims were soldiers and former fighters trying to stabilize the region after a 2015 agreement with the government.

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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.

Pope Francis tells Emmanuel Macron to remember France's Christian roots