French President Macron announces withdrawal of soldiers and ambassador from Niger amid rising tensions

2023-09-24 20:56:43

As of: September 24, 2023 10:56 p.m

Tensions between the two countries are increasing: French President Macron has announced that he will withdraw all soldiers and the ambassador from Niger. The military junta in Niamey closed the airspace to French aircraft.

After the military coup in Niger, French President Macron announced that he would end his military cooperation with the country and withdraw the ambassador from Niamey. French soldiers stationed in Niger should return by the end of the year, Emmanuel Macron said in an interview with television channels TF1 and France 2.

France has around 1,500 soldiers stationed in Niger. Paris had repeatedly rejected requests from the military junta to withdraw its armed forces and fly out the French ambassador – on the grounds that France did not recognize the putschists as legitimate.

A serious blow to France’s Africa policy

The withdrawal is a serious blow to France’s policy in Africa after French troops were withdrawn from neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso following coup attempts in recent years. At the request of African heads of state, France had stationed thousands of soldiers in the Sahel to fight jihadist groups.

Tensions between France and the former French colony of Niger have increased in recent weeks. In the interview with TV channels TF1 and France 2, Macron said he had spoken to ousted President Mohamed Bazoum and told him that France had decided to bring back its ambassador. Macron said several diplomats would also return to France.

Gradual withdrawal until the end of the year

“And we will end our military cooperation with the Nigerian authorities because they no longer want to fight against terrorism,” said the French president. The armed forces would be withdrawn gradually – probably by the end of the year – in coordination with the putschists, “because we want it to be peaceful.”

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Macron emphasized that France’s military presence was a response to a request from the then Nigerian government. However, this military cooperation between France and Niger has been suspended since the coup.

Niger closes airspace to French planes

At the weekend, the military junta upped the ante and announced that it would close the airspace to French aircraft. Niger’s airspace is open to all domestic and international commercial flights “except for French aircraft or aircraft chartered by France, including those of Air France,” said a statement published on the website of the Aviation Safety Authority for Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA). became. The airspace will remain closed to all military and special flights unless special permission is granted from the authorities.

Niger’s airspace reopened on September 4th after a month-long closure. At the beginning of August, the country’s military leadership closed the airspace due to the “risk of intervention.” The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had threatened military intervention to reinstate President Bazoum, who was overthrown in a coup on July 26th.

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