French President Emmanuel Macron will host President Vladimir Putin of Russian Federation in Versailles next Monday, their first meeting after Macron pledged during his election campaign to deal firmly with Russian Federation while also seeking to work with Putin against the Islamic State group.
The trip to Gao, where some 1,600 troops are based and where he will also hold talks with Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, will reaffirm Paris' engagement, in stark contrast to his predecessor Francois Hollande, who began his term pulling troops out of Afghanistan.
On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron said his new administration will push for a Greek debt relief deal.
The troops are part of Operation Barkhane, the counter-terror operation whose mission is to target jihadist groups operating in the Sahel region south of the Sahara. "I want to strengthen that partnership and make sure that this German commitment, which is already present, can be intensified".
Stationed there since July 2013, it has just over 12,000 military and police personnel working on what is considered the UN's most unsafe active peacekeeping deployment.
Macron said he discussed the issue this week with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The Elabe poll showed that although a majority supported Macron's unprecedented decision to form a government from a mix of ministers from the left, right and centre - with half the appointments coming from civil society non-politicians - Macron himself and his rightwing prime minister, Edouard Philippe, were beginning their terms with the lowest public confidence levels of any new French leaders in the past 20 years.
"The road is long. but we are going forward and we will succeed", Keita said. Set up in 2014, the operation comprises around 4,000 soldiers who are deployed across five countries-Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso.
France has been particularly hard hit by Islamist militant violence, with more than 230 people killed over the past two years. Africa is struggling more and more with terrorism.
The country is in the middle of its third worldwide bailout, but its progress has been slow in light of various disagreements related to the reforms the government has to impose in return for the rescue money. The attack was a major blow to peace efforts in northern Mali, where rival groups have been vying for control or outright independence.
"I don't think Macron's arrival will change anything to our daily life", Ousmane Maiga, a resident of Gao, told The Associated Press.
"Russia is ready to take the first step with the new French president ... to overcome the reciprocal mistrust of recent years", he said.
Another resident, Mohamed Gaiga, said he wants Macron "to put an end to the massacre of Malians".