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14 Aug, 2023 07:42

Niger coup leaders ready to talk with ECOWAS – officials

The regional bloc had earlier threatened military intervention in the country
Niger coup leaders ready to talk with ECOWAS – officials

The coup leaders in Niger have agreed to hold talks with the the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in a bid to defuse heightened tensions in the region.

The announcement was made on Sunday by Sheikh Abdullahi Bala Lau, the head of a delegation from neighboring Nigeria, following discussions with General Abdourahamane Tchiani, the leader of the coup, in the Nigerien capital Niamey.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Lau said Niger had “accepted to have fully direct discussions with the leaders of ECOWAS,” adding that the regional authority wants the coup leaders to choose the venue for the meeting.

The head of the Nigerian delegation also stated that ECOWAS wanted to create an avenue for dialogue with the plotters “to understand each other so that peace will continue to reign in our region.” He noted that, during several hours of talks, Tchiani insisted that “the coup was well intended,” and its leaders were frustrated when the bloc of West African countries threatened military action without hearing “their side of the matter.” The bloc had demanded the release of deposed President Mohamed Bazoum.

Ali Mahamane Lamine Zeine, who was appointed prime minister by the coup leaders, confirmed the news to reporters, adding that he was optimistic that the talks would take place in the next few days.

“We hope… [ECOWAS] will come here to meet us to discuss how the sanctions imposed against us will be lifted,” he said.

Meanwhile, the coup leaders said on Sunday that they would prosecute Bazoum as well as “his local and foreign accomplices” for “high treason and undermining the internal and external security of Niger.” According to the Associated Press, Niger’s military government had earlier threatened to kill the ousted president if ECOWAS started a military operation.

The coup in Niger took place on July 26 when the presidential guard headed by Tchiani detained Bazoum and his family, citing a “deteriorating security situation and bad governance.” The move sparked condemnation from global powers, while ECOWAS imposed harsh sanctions on Niger and issued an ultimatum to the coup leaders to release Bazoum or face military intervention.

However, the ultimatum expired earlier this month and ECOWAS has so far not taken military action, although it announced the mobilization of a standby force for possible use in Niger. Its size remains unclear while Nigerian President Bola Tinubu said its deployment would be a “last resort” measure.

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