Macron and Merkel meet in Paris to discuss world's crises and EU issues

© IAN LANGSDON French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the Elysee Palace in Paris on Thursday. EPA

French President Emmanuel Macron met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Paris on Thursday to discuss international crises and European issues, days before elections to determine who succeeds her after 16 years.

Key topics include the diplomatic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the fight against extremists in Africa’s Sahel region and EU affairs, both leaders said before their meeting.

Germany’s parliamentary elections will be held on September 26 and Mrs Merkel is not seeking a fifth term.

In Germany, the departing chancellor stays on until a new coalition government is formed, which can take weeks or months.

“We want to make everything possible on the German side so that there is no standstill on the necessary decisions that need to be made,” she said.

Mr Macron said he was closely monitoring the political developments in Germany.

“Dear Angela Merkel and myself will continue to work hand in hand on the big issues on which we seek to bring Franco-German solutions,” until a government is formed, he said.

Mr Macron and Mrs Merkel said they would discuss how to extract remaining European citizens and Afghans who are under threat from Afghanistan, and how to support neighbouring nations hosting its refugees.

“We will, of course, also have to consider what the end of the Nato deployment in Afghanistan means for us and our future missions in connection with the fight against terrorism, and what lessons we draw from its unsuccessful end, if you look at the aims we had imagined,” she said.

Mr Macron pushed for greater European “autonomy” with the world’s crises, including the “fight against terrorism” in Libya and in Africa’s Sahel region.

French authorities this week announced that the leader of ISIS in the Greater Sahara was killed in southern Mali in a French-led operation.

France has more than 5,000 troops in the Sahel to fight extremists.

Paris announced plans to nearly halve that force in the coming years. Germany has several hundred soldiers in UN stabilisation missions and EU training posts in Mali.

Both governments expressed concern this week at reports on the possible posting of Russian mercenaries in Mali.

German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer tweeted on Wednesday that, if confirmed, “that puts into question the basis of the mandate” for German soldiers in Mali.

A French top official said Mrs Merkel will be back in Paris in the coming weeks for a “goodbye visit”.

Mr Macron last week met two candidates to succeed her – Armin Laschet of Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, and Olaf Scholz, running for the Social Democrats.

The meetings, at the request of the two candidates, allowed the French president to get “the most precise information possible” about the political situation in Germany, and different hypotheses for the future coalition government, the official said.

Mr Macron did not meet Greens contender Annalena Baerbock.

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