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French envoy to stay in Niger despite ultimatum

French President Emmanuel Macron

Despite facing pressure from the leaders of a recent coup in Niger, President Emmanuel Macron has declared that France’s ambassador to Niger will remain in the Sahel country. During a major foreign policy address to assembled ambassadors in Paris on Monday, Macron reaffirmed France’s support for Niger’s ousted President Mohamed Bazoum. He praised Bazoum for his courageous decision not to resign and stated that France would back any military action by The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Niger.

Macron, speaking during the address, confirmed that French envoy Sylvain Itté was still stationed in Niger’s capital, Niamey, even though he had been given a 48-hour ultimatum to leave the country the previous Friday. Macron acknowledged the challenging situations that France and its diplomats had encountered in various countries in recent months, including Sudan and Niger, and praised the dedication of his colleagues posted in those regions.

President Mohamed Bazoum was overthrown in a coup on July 26 and, along with his family, has been held at the presidential palace. France, along with most of Niger’s neighbouring nations, has condemned this coup. ECOWAS has been engaged in diplomatic efforts to negotiate with the coup leaders but has expressed readiness to deploy troops to restore constitutional order if these diplomatic efforts fail.

Last Friday, Niger’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that French ambassador Sylvain Itté had 48 hours to leave, citing his refusal to engage with the new authorities and alleging that French government actions were contrary to Niger’s interests. The French ambassador refused to take the request seriously, considering the coup leaders illegitimate.

Macron reiterated that France would not alter its stance of condemning the coup and supporting Bazoum, emphasizing that Bazoum had been democratically elected. He stated that he believed France’s policy was the right one, founded on the courage of President Bazoum and the commitments of its ambassador, who remained steadfast despite significant pressure and declarations from the illegitimate authorities.

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