It is understood that the UK is to bolster a key French counter-terrorism operation in Africa by deploying three RAF Chinooks to Mali.
According to an official communiqué sent to C&S overnight:-
The Prime Minister is expected to make the announcement as part of the UK-France Summit at The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where she will discuss the UK’s strong and wide-ranging bilateral relationship with President Macron.
The helicopters, which will provide logistic support to French troops, are part of a wider effort to increase stability in the Sahel region of Africa in order to tackle Islamist terrorism. UK and French efforts in the region aim to provide greater stability, reducing the global terrorist threat and stemming the flow of illegal migration to Europe.The UK has been a long-standing supporter of UN, EU and African Union military operations in Mali and has worked with international partners to prevent extremists from using the ungoverned space in the Sahel to plan and launch attacks on Europe, as well as counter the illegal trade in people, drugs, weapons and wildlife. This is in addition to existing wider support to Africa including doubling our UN peacekeeping contribution with additional deployments to South Sudan and Somalia. Today the UK and France also agreed to work together to ensure EU African Peace Facility funding for AMISOM in Somalia.
The deployment of Chinooks to Mali will increase British support to France’s Operation BARKHANE, in addition to strategic air transport flights already being carried out by the RAF. British military personnel will not be involved in combat operations, but the deployment of Chinooks will provide a niche capability providing logistical support but also saving lives by avoiding the need to move troops by ground where they are more vulnerable to attack.
Alongside the military contribution, DfID will allocate £50m of additional aid including lifesaving humanitarian support for hundreds of thousands of people affected by epidemics, natural disasters and conflict across Mali, Niger, Chad, North Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. This will provide 320,000 people with emergency food and nutrition support and provide protection for 255,000 internally displaced people, returnees, refugees and their host communities. It will also supply clean water and better sanitation for 150,000 people.
The FCO is also exploring ways to better support the UK national interest in the region by enhancing the UK diplomatic presence. In addition, the Home Office will work with key African partners to build their capability to tackle human trafficking in support of the UK’s migration and modern slavery agenda. Discussions on taking this work forward will take place with the French after the Summit.France has also agreed to commit troops to the UK-led NATO battlegroup in Estonia [Operation CABRIT] in 2019, building on the successful joint deployment which the Prime Minister and President Macron visited together last year. These personnel will make up part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence [eFP] in Eastern Europe, providing deterrence in the face of increasing Russian assertiveness. This further deployment of UK and French forces alongside our Estonian allies represents both the UK and France’s shared commitment to upholding the deterrence and defence posture of NATO, and more widely our firm resolve and commitment to European security.
Today’s Summit, which will be attended by UK Cabinet Ministers and their counterparts, will mark President Macron’s first visit to the UK as President. While Summits in previous years have focussed on defence and security, foreign policy and nuclear energy, the 2018 Summit will be broadened to cover the full spectrum of the UK-France bilateral relationship including prosperity, innovation, science and education. Hundreds of thousands of British citizens live in France while hundreds of thousands of French nationals have chosen to make the UK their home. And the two countries share £71billion in trade, making France the UK’s third largest trading partner.
The Summit today will reflect the broadness of the UK-France relationship, with wide-ranging discussions also expected to focus on how the two countries can work together to address the challenges and seize the opportunities presented by new technologies. Ministers will also discuss ways in which the existing deep linguistic and cultural ties between the UK and France can be strengthened through pupil exchanges and shared education and cultural initiatives.
As well as attending the Summit the Prime Minister and President are expected to have a private lunch and attend a reception at the Victoria and Albert Museum in the evening.
The Prime Minister is expected to say:
“Today’s Summit will underline that we remain committed to defending our people and upholding our values as liberal democracies in the face of any threat, whether at home or abroad.
“But our friendship has always gone far beyond defence and security and the scope of today’s discussions represents its broad and unique nature.
“And while this Summit takes place as the UK prepares to leave the EU, this does not mean that the UK is leaving Europe.”
“What is clear from the discussions we will have today is that a strong relationship between our two countries is in the UK, France and Europe’s interests, both now and into the future.”