French President Emmanuel Macron called on international donors to quickly make financing available for the Sahel regional counterterror force.
In a news conference in Paris with visiting Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou, Macron said money "now needs to be disbursed" to allow the five-nation regional force, known as the G5 Sahel, to keep functioning.
He said the European Union started financing the force last week and will provide equipment in coming weeks. He called on other donors like Saudi Arabia to meet their financial commitments. Issoufou expressed his concerns over the financial sustainability of the force.
Earlier this year, international donors pledged 414 million euros ($510 million) to help Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger set up a counterterror force to combat the deadly jihadist threat in the Sahel region.
In an interview to French television France 24, Issoufou said negotiations are ongoing for the release of two humanitarian workers who were kidnapped in Niger. He said Jeffery Woodke, an American abducted in 2016 and Jorg Lang, a German abducted in April this year, are alive.
Issoufou said "we have some news, we know they are alive. We keep working on creating conditions for their release."
He said he couldn't confirm their precise location but one probable hypothesis is that they are being detained in northern Mali.