Thursday 26 April 2018

Turkey announces $5m for Sahel anti-jihadist force

Turkey announces $5m for Sahel anti-jihadist force
(AFP (eng) 03/02/18)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Senegal President Macky Sall

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seeking to boost his country's ties with Africa, on Thursday promised increased trade with Senegal after pledging $5 million to the Sahel region's battle against terrorism and trafficking.

Erdogan arrived in Senegal from Mauritania on Thursday, as his four-nation African tour continued.

"In two years President Erdogan has suggested that the level of trade should reach $250 million," Senegal's President Macky Sall told a joint press conference with his Turkish guest.

"I think today we are seeing a new impetus in our relations," Erdogan responded.

Since coming to power in 2003, Erdogan has worked to boost Turkey's links with Africa, an effort displayed through the number of new Turkish embassies which have sprung up across the continent and by the new routes which have opened up for Turkish Airlines.

"It's not about consuming or exploiting African resources," the Turkish leader assured during a visit to the new town of Diamniadio, 40 kilometres from the capital Dakar -- built largely by Turkish companies.

- Erdogan urges UN reform -

Late Wednesday the Turkish leader announced his country will donate $5 million (4.1 million euros) to a fledgling force of five African nations, battling terrorism and trafficking in the Sahel.

The G5 force -- including Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger -- aims to train and equip 5,000 troops to restore authority in lawless areas where jihadists have gained a foothold.

"Turkey is one of the countries which best understands the dangers with which you are confronted in the Sahel. We have therefore decided to give $5 million to help the G5 Sahel force," Erdogan said late Wednesday in Nouakchott.

The European Union announced an extra 50 million euros ($61 million) for the G5 Sahel force at a fund-raising conference in Brussels on February 23.

With the Turkish pledge, a total of 418 million euros has now been promised by donors, which include Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and United States.

The force is intended to become fully operational in mid-2018, and will serve alongside France's 4,000 troops in the area as well as the UN's 12,000-strong MINUSMA peacekeeping operation in Mali.

However, until now only 50 million euros of the money pledged has been made available, and Sahel leaders have warned it is needed urgently to deal with an influx of Islamic State (IS) group fighters driven out of Libya and Syria.

Erdogan also used his visit to Senegal to call for reform of the United Nations Security Council.

"Five nations (permanent veto-wielding members Britain, China, France, Russia and the US) can't be allowed to decide the destiny of the world," he said.

"Turkey, Senegal, Mauritanian should be members of the council".

An infrequent visitor to Europe while ties are strained with the West, Erdogan has made repeated trips to Africa since becoming president in 2014.

Erdogan, who started his African tour in Algeria, will end it with a short stop in Mali on Friday.

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