France will stay 'militarily engaged' in Mideast in 2019: Macron

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Toulouse (France) (AFP)

France will remain "militarily engaged" in the Middle East through 2019 despite the announced US withdrawal from the coalition fighting Islamic State jihadists in Syria, President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday.

"The retreat from Syria announced by our American friend cannot make us deviate from our strategic objective: eradicating Daesh," the president said in a speech at an army base in southern France, using the Arabic acronym for the IS group.

The French military has deployed 1,200 soldiers as part of the anti-IS efforts, via air operations, artillery, special forces in Syria and training for the Iraqi army.

"The fight is not over," Macron said, adding that in the coming months "we shall revise our global military deployment" but "we shall remain committed to participating in stabilisation" in the Middle East region.

"Any rush to withdraw would be a mistake," he added.

Macron had earlier criticised US President Donald Trump for saying in late December that he would soon start to withdraw the 2,000 US soldiers deployed in Syria.