France and Germany have said they will send a joint military brigade to restive Mali, in its first deployment to Africa.
“France and Germany have decided to send elements of the Franco-German Brigade to Mali: the first deployment under the aegis of the EU and in an African location,” a joint statement said on Wednesday.
The troops would integrate into a European mission in Mali, which has been recovering from a coup and armed uprisings, to train soldiers, the statement said after a security and defence meeting in Paris between the two countries.
The mission was launched in February last year and has already trained nearly 3,000 Malian soldiers.
The statement did not specify the number of troops involved. But the two sides called for greater investment in helping reorganise and train troops in the west African nation as well as the police and other security forces.
Mali was thrown into chaos in 2012 when Tuareg separatist rebels launched an offensive in the northern desert helped by armed groups linked to al-Qaeda, after the country’s president was toppled in a coup.
The armed groups took control of northern Mali, ruling it under a vision of Islamic law until former colonial ruler France sent in troops to flush them out in January last year.
But they are regrouping in the desert and remain an ever-present threat to security.
UN peacekeepers took over security in July last year from the Pan-African AFISMA military mission, which had been supporting the French troops.
France is winding down its deployment from a peak of around 5,000 soldiers but is to keep 1,000 troops in Mali beyond the spring.
The Franco-German brigade, which was set up in 1989 to increase military co-operation between the World War Two-era foes, totals about 4,800 troops based in both countries.
The brigade is highly symbolic in nature as it is difficult for both countries to jointly deploy soldiers to hotspots, given the different rules of engagement that govern each army.
Soldiers from the brigade have nevertheless been sent to Afghanistan and Kosovo in the past.