PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Paris Thursday to discuss international crises and European issues, days before elections that will determine who succeeds her after 16 years in office.
Key topics include the diplomatic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the fight against Islamic extremists in Africa’s Sahel region and European Union affairs, both leaders said before their meeting, to be followed by a working dinner.
The meeting comes ahead of Germany’s parliamentary elections on Sept. 26. Merkel has announced she won’t seek a fifth term.
Although Germany will be putting together a new government after the election, “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,” Merkel said. In Germany, the outgoing chancellor stays on until a new coalition government is formed, which can take weeks or months.
Macron said he was closely monitoring the political developments in Germany. Until a new government is formed, “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,” he said.
On Afghanistan, Macron and Merkel said they would discuss how to extract remaining European citizens and Afghans who are under threat, and how to support neighboring nations hosting Afghan 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,” Merkel said.
Macron pushed for greater European “autonomy” regarding the world’s crises, citing the “fight against terrorism” in Libya and in Africa’s Sahel region.
French authorities announced overnight the death of the leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, killed in southern Mali in a French-led operation.
France has over 5,000 troops deployed in the Sahel to fight Islamic extremists. Paris announced plans to nearly halve that force in the coming years. Germany has several hundred soldiers in United Nations stabilization and European Union training missions in Mali.
Both governments expressed concern this week at reports on the possible deployment of Russian mercenaries in Mali.
German Defense 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, speaking anonymously in accordance with the Elysee’s customary practices, said Merkel will be back in Paris in the coming weeks for a “goodbye visit.”
Macron met last week with two candidates to succeed her, Armin Laschet of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and Olaf Scholz, running for the Social Democrats.
The meetings, at the request of the two candidates, allowed Macron to get “the most precise information possible” about the political situation in Germany, and different hypothesis for the future coalition government, the official said.
Macron didn’t meet with Greens contender Annalena Baerbock.
AP Writer Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to the story.