A new war of words has erupted between Paris and Niamey. From New Delhi, on the sidelines of the G20 summit, President Macron responded to the Nigerien coup leaders, who once again accused France of planning an aggression against their country.
On Saturday, it was the Nigerien military regime, which came to power following the July coup, that accused France of “deploying its forces” in several West African countries, namely Benin, Ivory Coast, and Senegal, in preparation for an “aggression.” Niamey asserts that these maneuvers are aimed at “succeeding in a military intervention against our country.”
Paris wasted no time in responding this Sunday. “We do not recognize any legitimacy in the statements of the coup leaders,” emphasized French President Emmanuel Macron during a press conference at the G20 summit in India.
“The French forces were deployed on Nigerien soil at the request of Niger. We are here to fight terrorism at the request of Niger and its democratically elected institutions, namely President Bazoum, his government, and his Parliament. We have taken effective action that has significantly reduced terrorist attacks on Nigerien soil. We have done so at the cost of the lives of several French soldiers, and I think of their memory and their families every time I discuss this issue. Since last July, a coup d’état has been holding a democratically elected president hostage. France has a simple position: We condemn it, and we call for the release of President Bazoum, and the restoration of constitutional order. We do not recognize any legitimacy in the statements of the coup leaders.
Because President Bazoum has not relinquished his power, if we redeploy anything, I will only do so at the request of President Bazoum and in coordination with him, not with officials who are currently holding a president hostage. On this issue, from day one, France has been coordinating with all the presidents in the region, heads of state, and government, and we fully support the positions of ECOWAS. ECOWAS has condemned this coup, imposed sanctions, and continues to work to free President Bazoum and resolve this issue. France stands with them and supports them. As for the rest, I have no intention as long as the situation remains this way; it essentially freezes everything because the only person we have a legitimate reason to speak to is President Bazoum.”
At the same time, the situation in Niger was also at the center of a discussion between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leader of the Malian transition, Assimi Goïta. It was a telephone conversation “at the initiative of the Malian side,” according to the Kremlin in a statement. Both leaders expressed support for a political solution.