Niger’s self-declared military leadership is ready to reopen talks with the West African regional bloc, one week after it defied a deadline to reinstate the nation’s democratically elected president.
(Bloomberg) — Niger’s self-declared military leadership is ready to reopen talks with the West African regional bloc, one week after it defied a deadline to reinstate the nation’s democratically elected president.
“We’re open to a dialog that can lead to the lifting of sanctions,” the junta’s appointed prime minister, Ali Mahamane Lamine Zeine, said Sunday. “These measures are inhumane, exceptional and unacceptable,” Zeine told state TV Tele Sahel following a visit by a mediation mission of religious leaders from Nigeria.
The Economic Community of West African States last month closed air and land borders with Niger, froze the nation’s assets at the regional central bank and banned commercial flights as part of measures to compel the junta to cede power. Nigeria, Niger’s southern neighbor, ratcheted up pressure on the junta by cutting its electricity supply to the country.
The regional bloc activated a standby military force on Thursday, adding pressure on the junta.
The bloc will continue to pursue a diplomatic solution to the crisis, Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, who currently chairs Ecowas, said Thursday following a meeting of West African heads of state in the capital, Abuja.
Niger’s junta refused to see an earlier Ecowas mediation mission. Coup leaders told US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who visited Niger last week, that they would kill deposed President Mohamed Bazoum if there was any regional military intervention to restore his rule, the Associated Press reported, citing two unidentified Western officials.
The junta declined Nuland’s request to see Bazoum, 63.
Read more: What’s Driving Coups in Niger and Across West Africa?: QuickTake
The coup in Niger — the sixth in the region in three years — has brought condemnation from Western nations including France and the US, which together have thousands of troops stationed in the country. The country has been a key international ally in the global fight against jihadists in the region.
If successful, the coup would create a belt of military-run countries from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, most of which are friendlier to Russia than the West.
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