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15 Dec, 2023 12:28

US announces plans to resume security ties with Niger

The move comes after the West African country signed a defense agreement with Russia
US announces plans to resume security ties with Niger

Washington plans to resume security and development cooperation with Niger, Molly Phee, US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, announced on Wednesday. The US, along with France and other Western partners, had suspended aid to Niamey to punish the country’s new authorities, who took power in a July coup.

Phee told reporters in the Nigerien capital that the US government was concerned about the country’s deterioration of relations with some of its neighbors and international partners. She revealed that she had met with the coup leaders and urged them to take steps to restore democracy and pave the way for partnership restoration.

I have made clear to the CNSP [the military government] that we want to be a good partner again, but the CNSP has to be a good partner to the United States,” the diplomat said.

The move comes just days after the West African country signed a memorandum of understanding with Russia to strengthen cooperation in defense.

The agreement was reached earlier this month after Niger’s new rulers severed military ties with the EU as part of a review of the country’s ties with former Western allies. Niamey revoked its approval for the European Union Capacity Building Mission in Niger, which was established in 2012 to assist security forces in combating jihadist threats.

Last week, US President Joe Biden reported that around 648 American troops were still stationed in Niger. Prior to repositioning in September, there was a contingent of 1,100 soldiers stationed in the former French colony on counterterrorism missions in the Sahel. US troops are working closely with French forces in the region, who have been expelled by the coup leaders.

Washington has said withdrawal is not an option and that it would forge pragmatic relations with the new military authorities despite suspending around $200 million in foreign aid after the overthrow of Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) announced last week that it planned to resume talks with Niger’s military government after threats to use force to restore Bazoum’s rule failed to produce a positive result.

The regional authority has formed a mediation committee to work with the coup leaders to establish a “short transition” timeline to democratic rule, which is a precondition for easing “harsh” economic sanctions.

On Wednesday, Phee said she had encouraged Nigerien authorities to “respond positively” to the ECOWAS offer for negotiation, adding that she’s convinced the US “will remain Niger’s best partners.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Robert Dussey of Togo, one of the ECOWAS mediator countries, said an agreement had been reached with Niger’s military leaders “on the content and timing of the transition” to democratic governance. The announcement came after the Togolese diplomat met with his Nigerien counterpart Bakary Yaou Sangare and another official in Niamey on Thursday.