By BABACAR DIONE and FRANK JORDANS – Associated Press
DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his country is interested in a major gas project in Senegal as he begins a three-country visit to Africa on Sunday that also focuses on the aftermath. geopolitics of the war in Ukraine.
Senegal is believed to have large natural gas deposits along its border with Mauritania at a time when Germany and other European countries are trying to reduce their dependence on Russian gas imports.
“We have started discussions and we will continue our efforts at the expert level because it is our wish to progress,” Scholz said during a joint press briefing with Senegalese President Macky Sall.
The gas project off Senegal is being piloted by BP, and the first barrels are not expected until next year.
This week’s trip marks Scholz’s first trip to Africa since becoming chancellor nearly six months ago. Two of the countries he visits, Senegal and South Africa, have been invited to attend the G7 summit in Germany at the end of June.
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The participants will try to find a common position on Russia, which was expelled from the Group of Eight following its capture of Crimea by Ukraine in 2014.
The leaders of the G-7 summit will also address the threat of climate change. Several G-7 countries, including Germany and the United States, signed a “just energy transition partnership” with South Africa last year to help the country wean itself off highly polluting coal.
A similar agreement is underway with Senegal, where Germany has supported the construction of a solar park.
German officials also said Scholz would make a stopover in Niger, a country that, like its neighbors, has a long history of fighting Islamic extremists.
Earlier this month, the German government backed a plan to move hundreds of its soldiers to Niger from neighboring Mali. The development comes amid a deepening political crisis in Mali that has prompted former colonial power France to announce it is withdrawing its troops after nine years of aiding Malian insurgents.
German officials said their decision was also prompted by concerns that Malian forces receiving EU training could cooperate with Russian mercenaries currently operating in the country.
Germany, however, will increase its participation in a UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, contributing up to 1,400 troops. Cabinet decisions still need to be approved by Parliament.
Niger is also a major transit hub for illegal migration to Europe. People from all over West Africa are connecting with smugglers there to make the journey north to attempt the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean Sea.
Jordans reported from Berlin.
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