US diplomat visits Niger to meet coup leaders

The US on Monday said it has been in direct contact with coup leaders in Niger “in the last week to 10 days” to urge them to “step aside.”

“I’m not going to say at what level we’re with whom but there has been direct contact with military leaders urging them to step aside,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told a daily press briefing.

Asked about a statement from a US official last week speaking about a window of opportunity in Niger, Miller said: “The window of opportunity is definitely still open. We believe that the junta should step aside and let President (Mohamed) Bazoum resume his duties.”

“I don’t want to put an assessment on when that window would be closed other than to say that using diplomacy to achieve this objective is our top priority with respect to Niger and we continue to pursue it,” he added. 

On July 26, a group of soldiers calling themselves the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Country seized power after detaining President Bazoum, saying they took the step due to the “deteriorating security situation and bad governance.”

Bazoum was elected in 2021 in Niger’s first democratic power transition since it gained independence from French colonial rule in 1960.

Many countries, as well as regional blocs, have urged for the ousted president to be reinstated. Coup leader Abdourahamane Tchiani, however, has rejected the calls as interference in the country’s internal affairs.

The Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, which consists of 15 countries, will hold another emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss the crisis.

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