French President Emmanuel Macron has agreed with Niger to postpone a key summit focusing on France’s military operation in Africa’s Sahel region until the beginning of next year.
The French presidency said in a statement Thursday that Macron called Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou to express his support, a day after an attack by Islamic militants that killed at least 71 soldiers in the West African country.
They agreed to postpone the summit initially scheduled on Dec. 16 in the French southern town of Pau with the participation of the heads of state of Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mauritania.
Macron has said he expects West African leaders to make it clear that they want and need France’s military help despite the anti-French sentiment expressed by some protesters.
France’s operation in West and Central Africa is its largest overseas military mission, with 4,500 personnel. France intervened in Mali in 2013 after extremists seized control of major towns in the north and implemented a harsh version of Islamic law.
In a surge of violence in recent weeks, attackers often linked to the Islamic State have killed scores of troops in the Sahel region. A helicopter collision killed 13 French soldiers fighting Islamic extremists in Mali last month.