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EU voices “solidarity” with French envoy in Niger

High Representaitve of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, on Sep. 18, 2023, in New York.   -  
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BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP or licensors

European Union

The European Union's top diplomat on Monday (Sep. 18) voiced solidarity with France's ambassador to Niger, who has faced intense pressure after refusing to comply with an expulsion orders from Niger's military leaders.

"We also stress again our solidarity in France, over the situation of its ambassador on the ground, full solidarity with France and full support to President Bazoum," Josep Borell tolf reporters on Sep. 18 after the bloc's foreign ministers met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

After sacking the elected government in late July, the military that seized power on July 26 said it was expelling Ambassador Sylvain Itté.

But the 48-hour deadline passed without Paris recalling him.

The former colonial power then said it did not recognize the authority of the putschists.

Niger’s military junta said it had revoked the French ambassador’s diplomatic immunity and instructed the police to expel him. Sylvain Itté's visa and that of his family have also been cancelled.

President Emmanuel Macron said last week that the ambassador was "being held hostage" in the embassy, living off military rations after the military cut off deliveries of supplies.

Josep Borell also renewed the bloc's "full solidarity" with Mohamed Bazoum, the elected president who has been under house arrest with his family. The EU's top diplomat praised his "courage and determination."

Borrell said that the Europeans also agreed on the need to "reassess" their strategy in the Sahel, where France in particular has led years of efforts aimed at defeating jihadists.

"We need a new approach as we are facing a much more complex environment," he said.

"We insisted on the idea that we need African solutions for African problems."

Over the past decade, the European Union has spent 600 million euros in civilian and military missions in the Sahel, training 30,000 personnel of security forces and 18,000 troops in Mali and Niger, Borrell recently told the European Parliament.

Nonetheless, military leaders have taken over in both countries and in neighboring Burkina Faso.