French ambassador to Niger returns to Paris after weeks of tension

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Mr Macron’s office reiterated France’s support for the ousted president on Wednesday.

He had told Mr Hassoumi Massaoudou, foreign minister in the overthrown government, that France would continue to work “for a return to the constitutional order in Niger”, the Elysee Palace said.

Military pullout

Mr Macron also announced in his Sunday TV interview that French troops would withdraw from Niger in “the months and weeks to come” with a full pullout “by the end of the year” – another demand of the Niger regime.

The French president, who had sought to make a special ally of Niger, said military cooperation was “over”.

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

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

The earlier coups also forced the pullouts of French troops.

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

He also reaffirmed France’s position that Mr Bazoum was being held “hostage” and remained the “sole legitimate authority” in the country.

The elected president has remained confined in the presidential palace with his wife and son.

The junta had welcomed Mr Macron’s announcement on Sunday as “a new step towards sovereignty” but has said the timeframe for the military pullout “must be set out in a negotiated framework and by mutual agreement”.

Niger, like Burkina Faso and Mali, has been targeted by Islamic militant attacks for several years.

In recent weeks, tens of thousands of people have joined demonstrations and gatherings in Niamey calling for the withdrawal of the French troops from the country.

The United States, which has some 1,100 military personnel in Niger, has said it will “evaluate” its future steps on the crisis following France’s announcement. AFP

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