EU, France pledge €1.3bn anti-terror aid for Africa Sahel

Mauritanian soldiers stand guard near the border with Mali. Remote areas have been targeted by extremists and other armed groups that have proliferated in Africa’s Sahel region. (AFP)
Updated 06 December 2018
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EU, France pledge €1.3bn anti-terror aid for Africa Sahel

  • The five Sahel states — Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, and Niger — have been struggling against extremism and lawlessness along the Sahara’s southern rim
  • The five Sahel countries say they need €1.9 billion to help them fund projects in border regions vulnerable to militants

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania: The European Union and France on Thursday said their total investment in development funding aimed at preventing terrorism in African Sahel countries would rise to €1.3 billion ($1.5 billion), as the region struggles with extremism and lawlessness.
The five Sahel states — Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, and Niger — have been struggling against extremism and lawlessness along the Sahara’s southern rim since a militant revolt that began with a Tuareg separatist uprising in northern Mali in 2012.
The EU’s International Cooperation and Development Commissioner Neven Mimica told a conference in the Mauritanian capital that the bloc’s Sahel Priority Investment Programme (PIP) “now totals almost €800 million,” with an extra €122 million announced Thursday.
France will invest €500 million for the “priorities” of the G5 Sahel, added French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, explaining that the country will add an extra €220 million to the €280 million already pledged.
“Half of this sum is for projects already planned or under way. The other half will be awarded in a speedy way over the next two years to enable you to meet your priorities,” Le Drian said.
The five Sahel countries told the meeting they needed €1.9 billion to help them fund projects in border regions vulnerable to militants. They themselves provide 13 percent of that sum.
Governments hope that with an array of projects, including building schools, health centers and improving access to water, they can prevent communities from falling under the influence of extremists.
Extremism in the region has been fueled by the chaos that engulfed Libya in 2011, the militant takeover of northern Mali in 2012 and the rise of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.
The extremists were largely driven out of Mali in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.
The France-backed fledgling African regional force fighting militants is also suffering from lack of funding and shortfalls in equipment and training have led to delays in its operations.
As well as fighting terrorism it tackles smuggling and illegal immigration networks that operate in these vast, remote areas on the Sahara’s southern fringe.
A devastating attack in June on the force’s headquarters in Mali, claimed by an Al-Qaeda-linked group, destroyed the communications room, prompting a brief halt in operations.


Seoul: North Korea withdrew staff from liaison office

Updated 1 min 20 sec ago
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Seoul: North Korea withdrew staff from liaison office

SEOUL: North Korea abruptly withdrew its staff from an inter-Korean liaison office in the North on Friday, Seoul officials said.
The development will likely put a damper on ties between the Koreas and complicate global diplomacy on the North’s nuclear weapons program. Last month, the second US-North Korea summit in Vietnam collapsed due to disputes over US-led sanctions on the North.
Seoul’s Unification Ministry said that North Korea informed South Korea of its decision during a meeting at the liaison office at the North Korean border town of Kaesong on Friday.
The North said it “is pulling out with instructions from the superior authority,” according to a Unification Ministry statement. It didn’t say whether North Korea’s withdrawal of staff would be temporary or permanent.
According to the South Korean statement, the North added that it “will not mind the South remaining in the office” and that it would notify the South about practical matters later. Seoul’s Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung told reporters that South Korea plans to continue to staff the Kaesong liaison office normally and that it expects the North will continue to allow the South Koreans to commute to the office. He said Seoul plans to staff the office with 25 people on Saturday and Sunday.
The South Korean statement calls the North’s decision “regrettable.” It said South Korea urges the North to return its staff to the liaison office soon.
The liaison office opened last September as part of a flurry of reconciliation steps. It is the first such Korean office since the peninsula was split into a US-backed, capitalistic South and a Soviet-supported, socialist North in 1945. The Koreas had previously used telephone and fax-like communication channels that were often shut down in times of high tension.
The town is where the Korea’s now-stalled jointly run factory complex was located. It combined South Korean initiatives, capital and technology with North Korea’s cheap labor. Both Koreas want the US to allow sanctions exemptions to allow the reopening of the factory park, which provided the North with much-needed foreign currency.