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27 Mar, 2024 09:07

African leader holds defense talks with Putin despite US concerns

Nigerien military ruler Abdourahamane Tchiani has spoken to the Russian president about security in the Sahel, the Kremlin says
African leader holds defense talks with Putin despite US concerns

Niger’s transitional leader, Abdourahamane Tchiani, and Russian President Vladimir Putin have committed to coordinating efforts to combat terrorism in the Sahel region, where Western military partners have suffered setbacks in recent years

According to the Kremlin, the issue was discussed on Tuesday when the West African nation’s military ruler spoke to Putin by phone to express solidarity with Moscow following last Friday’s terrorist attack at Crocus City Hall, which killed 139 people.

“In discussing the bilateral agenda, the leaders expressed determination to step up political dialogue and develop mutually beneficial cooperation in various spheres,” it stated.

The talks between Putin and Tchiani took place despite the US warning Nigerien authorities against establishing relations with Russia and Iran.

Moscow and Niamey had previously agreed to strengthen bilateral military cooperation and work together to stabilize security in the Sahel region, which has experienced decade-long extremist violence. Nigerien Prime Minister Ali Mahamane Lamine Zeine has stated that Niamey’s authorities will only cooperate with partners who respect their sovereignty.

Niamey’s new leadership, which took power after the ouster of pro-Western President Mohamed Bazoum in July, revoked an agreement with the US on March 16 that had allowed some 1,000 American troops and civilian contractors to operate in the landlocked nation.

Colonel Amadou Abdramane, a military government spokesman, accused a US delegation, which was in Niamey to negotiate the renewal of the security pact, of attempting to “deny” Niger the right to choose its own partners and “types of partnerships capable of truly helping them fight against terrorism.”

The Pentagon has denied the allegations, with Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh claiming that the US team had only expressed concerns about the coup leader’s ties with Moscow and Tehran.

Since taking power last year, the military government has taken measures to sever ties with Niamey’s former partners, citing their failure to quell jihadist violence in the Sahel, which had been the goal of their engagement.

France completed the withdrawal of its troops from Niger in December after Niamey’s military rulers ordered them to leave, accusing the former colonial power of internal meddling.

Washington has, however, ruled out disengagement from the former French colony. Last Thursday, Celeste Wallander, the Pentagon’s assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, told Congress that the US was seeking clarification from Niger’s government about the cancellation of the defense agreement and was working to find a way for American troops to remain in the country.

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