From our partners at The Agonist
France 24, October 11
President François Hollande said on Thursday that he would not commit French combat troops to future military operations against Islamic militants in northern Mali, but would help with logistical support and training, a day before he embarked on his first official tour of Africa.
“We can’t intervene in the place of Africans, but we can offer logistical help, we can train, but France will not intervene” Hollande told FRANCE 24 in an exclusive interview on Thursday.
He said that it was up to the Malian government, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the African Union to organise and man a military response to Mali’s Islamist rebels.
Hollande said on Thursday that no negotiations were possible with those rebels. “Negotiate with whom? (…) With terrorists who impose sharia, cut off people’s hands and destroy monuments that were until now considered world heritage sites?” the president asked, referring to the destruction of centuries-old Malian mausoleums by religious extremists since the upheaval.
The French president added that allowing Muslim extremists free reign in northern Mali and the Sahel region could turn the territory into a training ground for terrorists and represent a threat to France and other countries’ internal security.
“We must cut off that road to terrorists,” Hollande said, adding that European funding to combating food and health shortages in the Sahel were also important initiatives to combat terrorism.