ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron launched his latest Africa visit with stops in Ethiopia and Djibouti on Tuesday aimed at shoring up military and economic ties in an increasingly strategic region.
The French leader also announced that Rwanda had invited him to attend the 25th anniversary of the country’s genocide, after years of tensions between the two nations over France’s role at the time.
Macron said France would send a representative without confirming he would go in person.
The French leader, who is in Kenya on Wednesday for a United Nations environmental summit, has visited Africa multiple times.
Macron in Ethiopia met with reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, whose country is shaken by Sunday’s deadly crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane that killed 157 people.
As France joined much of the world in grounding or banning the Boeing model involved in the crash, Macron said that his transport minister was “studying the matter with all the technical departments, and well-reasoned decisions will be taken in due time.”
France and Ethiopia also signed a joint defense agreement to help strengthen French involvement in the region, including in the fight against extremism and maritime piracy in the busy Red Sea corridor to the Indian Ocean.
Abiy and Macron also visited the churches of Lalibela, carved out of rock centuries ago. The Ethiopian leader noted that the French government last year pledged to support restoration of the churches.
Macron earlier was in Djibouti, a small but strategic nation that is home to the military bases of several countries including France, China and the United States.
The French leader offered support to boost Djibouti’s economy, and President Omar Guelleh called on French companies to invest in local infrastructure.
Djibouti is located on one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
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