French Defence chief pledges support for Ivorian armed forces

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The Chief of Staff of the French Armed Forces visited Ivory Coast on Monday to discuss shared security concerns.

Speaking at a newly opened counter-terrorism training academy near the economic capital, Abidjan, the high-ranking officer confirmed that France would continue to support the Ivorian government in the fight against armed groups.

"The Ivorian army is the leader, the Ivorian government, the country is the leader. And of course we are supporting them. We have put in instructors, there is a deputy who is here and who supports. The aim is to move towards greater autonomy" said Thierry Burkhard, Chief of Staff of the French Armed Forces.

The visit takes place against the background of a French military pullout from Mali.

In recent days, Mali's coup leaders ordered France's ambassador to leave the country deepening the rift with France and its European allies.

"In Mali, the repeated massacres carried out by the terrorists, killing villagers in absolute terms, does not win the hearts of the population and yet, through this message, they manage to weaken the governments in place. And finally reduce and, as you said, develop a feeling against the French army" added the high-ranking officer.

"This means that we must also be able to communicate, to show what we are doing and this is something that is extremely important and the French army, like the Ivorian army and the African armies, must progress in this area", admitted the Defense Chief.

The new leaders in Mali have gone back on the promise to hold democratic elections by the end of the month as previously agreed with West African bloc ECOWAS.

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