A French source told AFP on Tuesday that France is holding talks with Niger’s post-coup government on the withdrawal of “certain military elements” from the West African country.
France has about 1,500 troops in Niger and has strongly backed threats from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to intervene in Niger to reinstate Mohamed Bazoum, who was ousted as president in the July 26 coup.
France has also refused to withdraw its ambassador from Niger despite demands from the junta, led by Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani. But the report of talks between the post-coup government and France signals tensions could be easing. Al Jazeera also reported that discussions on a “partial” French withdrawal are underway.
On Monday, Niger’s military-appointed prime minister said Niamey was hoping to reach a deal with ECOWAS to avoid war. “We have not stopped contacts with ECOWAS, we are continuing contacts. We have good hopes of reaching an agreement in the coming days,” said Prime Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine.
Zeine added that his country is still preparing for intervention. “We are bracing to be attacked at any time. Every preparation has been taken. It would be an unjust war. We are determined to defend ourselves if there is an attack,” he said.
The junta has outlined a plan for the transition to civilian rule over a three-year period. According to Africa News, Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, the current chair of ECOWAS, proposed a nine-month transition period, suggesting a compromise could be made.