PARIS, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) — “This week,” France will begin withdrawing its soldiers deployed in Niger, the French Joint Defense Staff said on Thursday.
“We will begin our disengagement operation this week, in good order, safely and in coordination with the Nigeriens,” the French military headquarters was quoted by the French daily Le Figaro as saying.
According to the Joint Defense Staff, about 1,000 French soldiers are based in Niamey, Niger’s capital, and 400 others in the northwest of the country near the so-called “three borders” zone between Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali.
“We are taking steps to ensure the safety of the people engaged in the manoeuvre,” the French army headquarters said.
In a televised interview, French President Emmanuel Macron said in late September that France would withdraw its troops deployed in Niger by the end of 2023.
“We are ending our military cooperation with the de facto authorities of Niger because they no longer want to fight against terrorism,” he said, adding that France would consult with the military junta to make the withdrawal “done peacefully.”
“We will continue to support the African continent in the fight against terrorism, but we only do so if it is at the request of democratically elected powers and regional authorities,” Macron said.
Relations between Niger and France nosedived after the July 2023 coup in Niger.
France has suspended visa deliveries in the country and evacuated its citizens, while Niger has closed its airspace for all French-registered aircraft.