France plans to close embassy in Niger following coup, letter shows

PARIS/NIAMEY (Reuters) – France is planning to close its embassy in Niger for an indefinite period as it is unable to carry out diplomatic tasks due to restrictions imposed by the ruling junta, a French embassy letter to its Niger staff dated Tuesday and seen by Reuters on Thursday showed.

Relations between Niger and France, its former colonial ruler, have broken down since army officers toppled President Mohamed Bazoum and seized power in a coup in July.

Following the strategy of juntas in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso, they ordered police to expel France’s ambassador Sylvain Itte and called for the departure of French troops from its territory.

France at first ignored the order, but a month later President Emmanuel Macron announced that the ambassador would return to Paris and French troops would leave.

According to the document, shared on social media, Nigerien authorities did not respond favourably to the embassy’s request to operate under regular conditions following the coup.

French officials did not confirm or deny the veracity of the document when contacted by Reuters.

They have said, however, that the situation at the embassy has grown difficult since the summer with constraints making it increasingly hard to carry out its operations.

(Reporting by John Irish and Boureima Balima; Writing by Anait Miridzhanian; editing by Diane Craft)