Sunak, Scholz discuss ‘concerning situation’ in Niger

Two leaders confirmed that they look forward to meeting in person at the G20 summit in India next month…reports Asian Lite News

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz condemned what they called recent attempts to “undermine democracy, peace and stability” in Niger, a statement from Sunak’s office said on Wednesday.

“The Prime Minister and Chancellor Scholz discussed the concerning situation in Niger,” a Downing Street spokesperson said in a statement after a military junta ousted President Mohamed Bazoum and his government.

“The UK and Germany have both condemned the recent attempts to undermine democracy, peace and stability in the country.”

Furthermore, the two leaders confirmed that they look forward to meeting in person at the G20 summit in India next month.

Junta leader rejects international pressure

West African military chiefs are holding a three-day meeting in Nigeria’s capital Abuja to discuss how to respond to a July 26 coup in neighbouring Niger.

The coup has raised fears of a regional conflict and prompted France, the former colonial power, to fly out its citizens.

Ecowas, an alliance of West African countries that is currently led by Nigeria, on Sunday imposed trade and financial sanctions and gave the coup leaders a week to reinstate Niger’s democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, or possibly face force.

The self-proclaimed new leader of Niger, Abdourahamane Tiani, on Wednesday rejected the sanctions imposed by the West African regional bloc as illegal, unjust and inhumane.

In a televised address, Tiani said Niger would not bow to regional and international pressure to reinstate Bazoum.

The West African regional bloc on Wednesday said a military intervention in junta-ruled Niger would be “the last resort”.

“The military option is the very last option on the table … but we have to prepare for the eventuality,” said Abdel-Fatau Musah, the Ecowas commissioner for political affairs, peace and security.

An Ecowas delegation is also in Niger to speak directly to the junta leaders.

The delegation is led by former Nigerian president Abdulsalami Abubakar and includes a highly respected Nigerian religious leader, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar.

Nigeria, which has the fourth largest army in Africa, has led the Ecowas response to the coup.

Analysts believe that if mediation attempts fail, a Nigerian-led military intervention is likely. There is little expectation that any western country would be directly involved.

Italy’s Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani told media on Wednesday that: “We have to work so that democracy prevails in Niger … we need to rule out any western military initiative because it would be perceived as a new colonisation.” Ecowas’s firm response to the coup has been welcomed by western leaders.

“We stand ready to support Ecowas’s upcoming decisions, including the adoption of sanctions,” the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said on Saturday. Russia on Wednesday called for “urgent national dialogue” in Niger and cautioned that the situation could worsen.

“It’s very important to prevent a further deterioration of the situation in the country,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters. Zakharova said dialogue was needed for the “restoration of civil peace and to ensure law and order”.

But the threat of a military intervention was met by a strong rebuttal from Mali and Burkina Faso, both led by military juntas, who said that it would be equal to a declaration of war against them. Niamey, Bamako and Ouagadougou seem to have been co-ordinating their response to Ecowas, with Gen Salifou Mody, one of the officers who seized power in Niger last week, visiting Mali on Wednesday.

First UK nationals safely out Niger

The first group of British nationals have safely left Niger on a French flight to Paris, the Foreign Office has said. It gave no further details on how many Britons were on the plane but said a “very small number” remain in Niger.

France and Italy had already started evacuating their citizens.

The UK government had previously advised British nationals to register their whereabouts and stay indoors. There were believed to be fewer than 100 British nationals in Niger.

The first to be evacuated were those who had requested to leave Niger and were able to make their way to the airport in time for this flight. A statement from the Foreign Office said: “The UK’s ambassador and a core team remain in Niger to support the very small number of British nationals who are still there. We are grateful to the French for their help in this evacuation.”

German citizens in Niger – who are also thought to number fewer than 100 – have been urged to leave the country aboard planes organised by France, while the Spanish government said it was preparing to evacuate around 70 of its citizens.

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