France confirms ‘talks’ with Niger junta over ‘easing movements’ of French troops

France confirms ‘talks’ with Niger junta over ‘easing movements’ of French troops

France’s army is holding “talks” with counterparts in Niger about “easing movements of French military resources” in the country following a July coup by hostile generals, people close to Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu told AFP Tuesday.

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“Talks on functional coordination exist locally between soldiers,” the people said, as French forces have been “immobilised since anti-terrorist cooperation was suspended” following the military takeover in Niamey.

They did not reveal the type, size or calendar of troop “movements” taking place, nor did they mention any withdrawal of French forces.

Some 1,500 French troops have been deployed in Niger as part of its wider fight against jihadists in the Sahel region.

Niger’s military-appointed Prime Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine said Monday that “contacts” were under way about a “very swift” departure for Paris’ troops.

The generals behind the coup renounced several cooperation agreements with France on August 3, including one with a month-long notice period that expired on Sunday.

Zeine nevertheless said Monday that he hoped to “maintain cooperation if possible with a country with which we have shared many things”.

France, the former colonial power in Niger, has repeatedly said it does not recognise the military authorities there after they deposed president Mohamed Bazoum.

The French forces are mostly based at an airfield near the capital Niamey, which in recent days has been targeted by protesters calling on them to leave.