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France will end military presence in Niger, says President Macron

Still of Emmanuel Macron making an announcement
Still of Emmanuel Macron making an announcement Copyright IAN LANGSDON/AFP or licensors
Copyright IAN LANGSDON/AFP or licensors
By Euronews
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Tensions between France and Niger, a former French colony, have mounted in recent weeks, with French diplomats surviving on military rations as they are holed up in the embassy.

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President Emmanuel Macron announced on Sunday that France will end its military presence in Niger and pull its ambassador out of the country. This comes after the democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, was deposed in a coup in July.

The announcement is a significant, if predicted, blow to France’s policy in Africa after French troops pulled out of neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso in recent years after coups there. France had stationed thousands of troops in the region at the request of African leaders to fight jihadist groups.

France has maintained some 1,500 troops in Niger since the July coup and had repeatedly refused an order by the new junta for its ambassador to leave, saying that France didn't recognise the coup leaders as legitimate.

Sam Mednick/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
Supporters of Niger's ruling junta hold a Russian flag at the start of a protest called to fight for the country's freedom and push back against foreign interference in NiameySam Mednick/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.

In an interview with national television, Macron said that he spoke to ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, and told him that: “France has decided to bring back its ambassador, and in the coming hours our ambassador and several diplomats will return to France.

"And we will put an end to our military cooperation with the Niger authorities.” He added that troops would be gradually pulled out, likely by the end of the year.

He noted that France’s military presence in Niger was in response to a request from the Nigerien government at the time.

The military cooperation between the two countries had been suspended since the coup. The junta leaders claimed that Bazoum's government wasn’t doing enough to protect the country from the insurgency.

The junta in August gave French Ambassador Sylvain Itte 48 hours to leave. After the deadline expired without France recalling him, the coup leaders then revoked his diplomatic immunity.

The junta is now under sanctions by Western and regional African powers.

In New York on Friday, the military government that seized power in Niger accused UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of “obstructing” the West African nation’s full participation at the UN’s annual meeting of world leaders in order to appease France and its allies.

**For more information watch Euronews' international correspondent Anelise Borges report in the video above. **

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