Protesters vandalised the French embassy in Niamey after a military junta moved to seize power in the aid- and security-dependent West African nation.
Emmanuel Macron "will not tolerate any attack against France and its interests" in Niger and Paris will retaliate "immediately and uncompromisingly", the French government said on Sunday, as thousands demonstrated outside the French embassy in Niamey in support of an ongoing military coup.
"Anyone attacking French nationals, the army, diplomats or French bases would see France retaliate immediately and intractably," the Elysée Palace warned in a statement. "The President of the Republic will not tolerate any attack against France and its interests."
According to the Quai d'Orsay, 500 to 600 French nationals are currently in Niger.
"France also supports all regional initiatives aimed at "restoring constitutional order" and the return of the elected president Mohamed Bazoum, the palace added.
Storming the embassy
The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs also condemned "any violence against diplomatic compounds, the security of which is the responsibility of the host state".
France is Niger's key development and security ally, and currently has 1,500 soldiers there. But following the coup led by General Abdourahamane Tiani, it announced on Saturday that it was suspending its aid to the country.
Thousands of people have demonstrated outside the French embassy in Niamey, where they were ultimately dispersed with tear gas.
Some tried to enter the building, while others tore down the plaque reading "French Embassy in Niger" before trampling it on the tarmac and replacing it with Russian and Nigerien flags.
Demonstrators in Niger are openly resentful of France, and Russia is seen by some as a powerful alternative. The nature of Russia's involvement in the rallies, if any, isn't clear but some protesters have carried Russian flags, along with signs reading "Down with France" and supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Russian mercenary group Wagner is operating in neighbouring Mali, and under Putin Russia has expanded its influence in West Africa. The new junta's leaders have not said whether they intend to ally themselves with Moscow or stick with Niger's Western partners.
The protest was convened by the civil movement M62, which objects to the French army's Barkhane operation in the Sahel and Sahara.
At an emergency meeting on Sunday, the West African bloc known as ECOWAS said that it was suspending relations with Niger, and authorised the use of force if President Mohamed Bazoum is not reinstated within a week. The African Union has issued its own 15-day ultimatum to the junta in Niger to reinstall the democratically elected government.
Shortly after the ECOWAS meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, Chadian President Mahamat Deby arrived in Niger to lead mediation efforts, according to the Chad state radio station.
ECOWAS has struggled to make a definitive impact on the region's political crises in the past but Bazoum was democratically elected two years ago in Niger's first peaceful transfer of power since independence from France in 1960.