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The withdrawal will be organized in the coming weeks, said French President Emmanuel Macron.
France will end its military presence in Niger by the end of 2023, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday, marking the latest major development amid high tensions between the two countries since a military junta seized control of Niger in July.
“We are ending our military cooperation with the de facto authorities of Niger because they no longer want to fight terrorism,” Macron said of the military leaders who took control of the northwest African country.
France has not recognized Niger’s military authorities and insists that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, ousted in the coup, remains the country’s only legitimate authority.
The decision to end “cooperation” was “because we are not there to take care of domestic politics and be hostages of coup plotters,” said Macron, referring to the military group.
The withdrawal will be organized in the coming weeks, he said.
“They will come back in an orderly manner in the coming weeks and months, and for this we will coordinate with the coup plotters because we want this to happen calmly,” Macron said.
According to a statement published on Nigerian state television Tele Sahel, Niger’s ruling military power welcomed France’s decision to withdraw its troops from the country.
“This Sunday we celebrate another step towards Niger’s sovereignty. French troops and the French ambassador will leave Niger by the end of the year,” the statement said. “Imperialist and neo-colonialist forces are no longer welcome on our territory.”
“Any person, institution or structure whose presence threatens the interests and views of our country must leave the land of our ancestors, whether they like it or not,” it continued. “Our resistance will be unwavering and will confront any institution or structure that seeks to challenge our nation’s greater interests.”
France had deployed military troops to the country, many of them there to help with counterterrorism missions, on the grounds that Niger was a relatively stable democracy in a region rife with political unrest, terrorism and Islamist insurgency, CNN reported.
About 1,500 soldiers remain.
Answering a question about the payout schedule: Macron said there would be no more French soldiers in Niger by the end of 2023.
Thousands of Nigerians gather outside the French army headquarters in Niamey, Niger on September 2, 2023 to support the coup plotters and demand the withdrawal of the French army.
Earlier this month, two US officials also said the United States could begin withdrawing troops from Niger in the coming weeks, CNN previously reported. Up to half of the approximately 1,100 US troops stationed in Niger could be withdrawn from the country, the two officials said.
The French president also said he had decided to bring the country’s ambassador to Niger, Sylvain Itte, back to France.
“France has decided to bring back its ambassador,” Macron said. “In the coming hours our ambassador will return to France along with several diplomats.”
This announcement comes just over a week after Macron said the ambassador was “literally being held hostage in the French embassy” and that “the delivery of food” to the embassy in the capital Niamey was prevented.
After its coup in July, the military junta ordered Itte to leave the country, later revoking his visa and ordering police to deport him.
However, according to the French presidency, the diplomat remained in office and the French authorities reiterated that they do not recognize the junta’s authority.
Itte is still working, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said earlier this month, adding that he would stay “as long as we want” and that the official’s return was Macron’s decision.