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France's Macron visits Djibouti and Ethiopia

LALIBELA, Ethiopia (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron met with the leaders of Djibouti and Ethiopia at the start of a multi-nation trip to Africa aimed at shoring up military and economic ties in the continent's strategically-important East.

The French leader on Tuesday offered support for Djibouti to boost its economy and pursue further peace in the Horn of Africa region. Macron met with Djibouti's President Omar Guelleh, who encouraged French companies to invest in local infrastructure.

Macron praised the small African state that lies on the strategic Gulf of Aden as "a historic partner and strategic ally." He called for further economic cooperation and intensifying the fight against piracy. French business leaders joined him on the trip to Djibouti, home to a French naval base.

Djibouti is seen as relatively stable within the volatile Horn of Africa region, and its location on one of the world's busiest shipping lanes has attracted interest from other world powers. Macron continued his trip to neighboring Ethiopia, being received Tuesday afternoon by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for his first state visit.

In a tweet marking the moment, Abiy's office said that the Ethiopia and France, a former colonial power in the region, have held "strong diplomatic relations since 1897." Abiy and Macron visited the historic churches of Lalibela, that were carved out of rock centuries ago. In a tweet Abiy noted that the French government pledged in October to support restoration of the churches.

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