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|Alliot-Marie: France, Djibouti Ties Solid As Rock|
French defence minister formalises renewal of agreement allowing
France to base troops in Djibouti.
DJIBOUTI, July 9, 2004 (Middle East Online) – France and Djibouti
have solid and mutually beneficial relations, French Defence Minister
Michele Alliot-Marie said Friday after talks with Djibouti President
Ismail Omar Guelleh.
"We are engaged in solid, serene, lasting cooperation which will be
beneficial to both sides," Alliot-Marie told reporters on the second
day of a visit to the tiny former French colony in east Africa.
During her visit, Alliot-Marie formalised the renewal of an agreement
that has allowed France to base troops in its strategically located
former colony since 1977.
In August last year France agreed to pay an annual fee of 30 million
euros (36 million dollars) to Djibouti in exchange for the right to
use military facilities in the desert country, which lies on the
African side of the Bab el Mandeb, the strategic chokepoint between
the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea.
The new financial agreement nearly doubled France's contribution for
use of the military facilities, which previously stood at 18 million
Alliot-Marie said she had discussed with Guelleh plans by France to
expand its military base in Djibouti, its largest on the African
continent, currently with some 2,800 soldiers.
The expansion, which would see the base grow by 15 hectares (37
acres), would allow France to station three strategic aircraft at the
base and build facilities to accommodate 1,000 soldiers passing
Alliot-Marie said she also discussed economic cooperation issues with
Guelleh, including the ongoing project to expand Djibouti port, one
of very few deep water ports in the Horn of Africa region.
The French defence minister praised Djibouti port as "one of the
safest in the region because of the presence of French troops".
Washington has also had 1,500 troops based in the tiny Horn of Africa
country, since late 2002