Germany pledges two transport planes for Mali mission

16th January 2013, Comments 0 comments

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday pledged two German Transall military transport planes for the mission against Islamist rebels in Mali, warning that allowing "terrorism" there would endanger Europe.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Ivory Coast President and ECOWAS chairman Alassane Ouattara, Merkel said Berlin would make two planes available "in a short timeframe" to ferry African troops into the capital Bamako.

"I think we are under a lot of time pressure and Germany sees the security situation in the region also as part of its own security situation," said Merkel.

"Terrorism in Mali, or in the north of Mali, is a threat not just for Africa but also for Europe," added the chancellor.

German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere also told reporters that the two aircraft to help the deployment by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) would be sent "soon", when technical details are ironed out.

De Maiziere also noted that France was already meeting its transport needs with the help of other allies including Britain.

The German pledge came after Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said Rome was prepared to provide logistical support and EU foreign ministers prepared for emergency talks Thursday to discuss speeding up the dispatch of a mission to train Mali's army.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who joined De Maiziere at the hastily called press conference, said the assistance "shows that we are living up to our responsibilities".

He also pledged one million euros ($1.3 million) in humanitarian aid from Berlin for Mali's beleaguered civilian population, estimating that some 4.2 million people were in need of assistance.

The aid will go mainly to refugees fleeing the violence, via German aid organisation Welthungerhilfe, he said.

Both ministers said that the Bundestag lower house of parliament would not need to vote on the deployment of the Transall planes, but De Maiziere said the commitment had been discussed with senior lawmakers.

He held out the prospect of further assistance should conditions in Mali worsen.

"If the situation changes, in Bamako or due to other circumstances, we will quickly not only discuss matters but also seek a mandate if necessary," he said, citing a troop training mission as a possible example.

For his part Ouattara called on all European partners to support the French-led mission against Islamic militants in Mali.

"I would like this action to be supported by all Europeans. It was urgent to act and I congratulate (French) President (Francois) Hollande but everyone has to mobilise," said Ouattara.

He said there was a "real danger" of extremists gaining a foothold in Mali. "That is why it was so urgent to have a swift intervention."

A first contingent of 190 Nigerian troops was due to arrive in Bamako Wednesday as part of a regional force of over 3,000 soldiers, to back up the French air and ground offensive launched on January 11.

Mali has been effectively split in two since March 2012, when Islamists took advantage of a short-lived coup in Bamako and an offensive launched by Tuareg separatists in the north to seize half of the country.

Western countries had voiced fears that Mali's north -- a desert region larger than France -- could become Al-Qaeda's leading global safe haven and be used to launch attacks on targets in Europe.

France intervened in its former colony after the Islamists last week pushed south toward Bamako, seizing the town of Konna in the government-held centre.

© 2013 AFP

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