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France backs efforts to quash Niger coup ahead of Sunday deadline

France backs efforts to quash Niger coup ahead of Sunday deadline

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French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna on Saturday backed efforts to reverse a military coup in Niger, following a meeting in Paris with the African country’s Prime Minister Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou and Niger’s Ambassador to France, Aïchatou Boulama Kané.

France “firmly and resolutely supports the efforts of ECOWAS to thwart this attempted putsch,” the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement, referring to a group of 15 West African countries that has given the putschists in Niger until Sunday to step down or face a possible military intervention. “The future of Niger and the stability of the entire region are at stake,” the ministry said.

ECOWAS issued its ultimatum after Niger’s top military officers announced on July 27 that they had overthrown the country’s President Mohamed Bazoum, who was democratically elected in 2021.

Asked in an interview with Radio France Internationale on Saturday whether France would play a role in any intervention, Colonna said: “We’re not there yet. The decisions taken by ECOWAS immediately after the coup d’état constitute pressure, a clear demand on the part of the countries in the region, relaying that of the entire international community.”

The threat of military intervention made by ECOWAS “must be taken very seriously,” Colonna added. “The chiefs of staff in the region have met, made preparations and indicated that preparations have been made.”

The putschists on Thursday announced the end of military cooperation deals with France, in a major blow to French efforts to combat terrorism in the Sahel region. Both France and the U.S. have considered Niger to be a strategic country and a reliable ally in the fight against terrorism.

France’s Foreign Ministry has said the revocation of the military pacts will not effect existing military deals as Paris does not recognize the putschists.

“They have until tomorrow to renounce this adventurism, these personal adventures, and restore democracy,” Colonna said. “Niger, which had democratically elected its president, must return to constitutional order, must see the will of the people of Niger respected.”

According to reports by France 24 and the Associated Press, Niger’s military junta has asked for help from the Russian mercenary group Wagner as Sunday’s deadline approaches.

Giorgio Leali contributed reporting.

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