Chinese ambassador to Niger says Beijing to mediate in settling the crisis Niamey welcomes move and says French troops have to leave
The Chinese government has announced its intention to facilitate a peaceful resolution to the Niger crisis, following a coup in July that triggered sanctions and left the country facing threats of armed action.
“The Chinese government intends to play the role of good offices, a role of mediator, with full respect for the regional countries,” Jiang Feng, Beijing’s ambassador to Niamey, said on Monday during a meeting with military-appointed prime minister Ali Lamine Zeine.
Feng stated that while China “stands with Nigeriens” amid the political situation, it remains committed to its principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.
Niger’s military government has faced mounting regional and global pressure since the coup on July 26, which removed President Mohamed Bazoum from power and led to his continued detention.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has said that it will pursue all means necessary to restore constitutional order in Niger, including force as a last resort. Last month, the regional bloc said a standby force was ready to be deployed against the coup leaders if ongoing diplomatic efforts proved unsuccessful.
Zeine said Niger expects a quick withdrawal of French troops after relations between France deteriorated.
“The government has already revoked the deals that allow for the French troops to operate on our territory,” Zeine told reporters in the capital Niamey on Monday.
The French forces are in Niger “illegally,” he clamed, adding that “talks are underway, which should allow for a swift withdrawal.”
Paris withdrew troops from Burkina Faso earlier this year after the country’s military rulers asked them to leave. France also pulled its forces out of Mali following tensions with the military government following a coup in 2020.
Earlier last month, Niger’s coup leaders announced the cancellation of military agreements that allowed French forces to fight jihadist insurgents in the Sahel region, giving the former colonial power only a month to pull out its 1,500 troops.
The military authorities have also ordered the “immediate expulsion” of France’s ambassador, Sylvain Itte, after he refused to meet with the military leaders, whom France has repeatedly labeled “illegitimate.”
Paris has disregarded the orders to remove its troops and envoy, and instead expressed support for ECOWAS sanctions and a possible military intervention to restore Bazoum’s regime.
The French military reportedly warned on Friday that it was ready to respond if renewed tensions in Niger targeted its base and diplomatic facilities.
French soldiers of the 2e Regiment Etranger de Parachutistes and Nigerien soldiers prepare for a mission on the French BAP air base, in Niamey. © ALAIN JOCARD / AFP
On Monday, the military-appointed prime minister said military action by ECOWAS did not have the backing of all its member states.
“Out of the 15 ECOWAS members, maybe three or four are behind a military intervention,” Zeine said, as quoted by Bloomberg. “All the dispositions are in place, and we’re ready to defend ourselves if it comes to it.”
However, he added that the new rulers, whose proposal for a three-year transition was rejected by ECOWAS, “have hopes of reaching an agreement” with the bloc in the “coming days.”
Algeria announced a six-month transitional plan to restore constitutional and democratic order in Niger late last month, following the proposal of coup leader General Abdourahmane Tchiani to return the West African country to civilian rule within three years.
Algiers has repeatedly opposed a military intervention in Niger, including allegedly refusing a request from France to fly over its airspace for an armed operation in Niamey.
ECOWAS, which has imposed financial and economic sanctions on Niger, has rejected Tchiani’s transition plan, calling the “prolonged” timeline a “provocation.”
The United States, France, the Netherlands, and Germany have all halted some foreign assistance projects in Niger following the coup.
However, the Chinese envoy indicated on Monday that Beijing would continue all projects that were in the interest of the Nigerien authorities.
China continues to be a partner for Niamey in various sectors, including energy, oil, and infrastructure, with both nations collaborating on a significant 2,000-kilometer oil export pipeline project aimed at transporting crude oil from the Agadem fields in southern Niger to the port of Seme in Benin.