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Niger regime wants ‘negotiated framework’ for French army pullout

By AFP - Sep 26,2023 - Last updated at Sep 26,2023

NIAMEY, Niger — Niger’s coup leaders are demanding a “negotiated framework” for former colonial ruler France to withdraw its troops, which Paris says will be completed by the end of the year.

The new military regime said in a statement read out on national TV late on Monday that the timeframe for the pullout “must be set out in a negotiated framework and by mutual agreement”.

It came almost two months to the day after the overthrow of Niger’s democratically elected president Mohamed Bazoum on July 26.

On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that Paris would withdraw its ambassador from Niger, followed by the French military contingent in the coming months — both demands of the post-coup regime in Niamey.

“Regarding the ambassador, we have no comment to make about the modalities of his return,” French foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre said on Tuesday.

“The release of President Bazoum is a priority,” she added.

Macron, who had sought to make a special ally of Niger, said military cooperation was “over” and French troops would withdraw in “the months and weeks to come” with a full pullout “by the end of the year”.

France keeps about 1,500 soldiers in its former West African colony as part of an anti-extremist deployment in the Sahel.

The coup against Bazoum was the third such putsch in the region in as many years, following similar actions in Mali and Burkina Faso in 2021 and 2022.

They too forced the pullouts of French troops.

Macron said on Sunday that Niger’s post-coup authorities “no longer wanted to fight against terrorism”.

Niger’s rulers, who have welcomed the announcement by France, said they were waiting for it to be followed up by official actions from the French authorities.

There has been no apparent signs of movement around France’s embassy in Niamey since late Sunday indicating the departure of its ambassador Sylvain Itte.

France has not recognised the authority of the military leaders and is still demanding Bazoum’s restoration.

On August 3, the coup leaders renounced several military cooperation agreements with France, before qualifying as “illegal” the presence of French troops on its soil.

Later that month, they ordered France’s ambassador to leave the country. Paris responded that only Bazoum’s deposed government could order him out.

Niger has welcomed Macron’s announcement on Sunday as “a new step towards sovereignty”.

“This is a historic moment, which speaks to the determination and will of the Nigerien people,” the country’s military rulers said in a statement, read out on national television.

 

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