Macron, in Reversal, Says French Soldiers Will Leave Niger

(Bloomberg) — President Emmanuel Macron said French troops will leave Niger by year’s end, bowing to the demands of a junta in the former colony after a coup that upended France’s strategy in Africa.

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Withdrawing France’s roughly 1,500 troops marks a reversal for Macron, who previously rejected a Sept. 3 deadline by the coup leaders and said he’d only do so at the request of ousted President Mohammed Bazoum.

“We will consult with the putschists, because we want this to happen peacefully,” Macron said Sunday in a television interview with TF1 and France 2.

The junta deposed Bazoum on July 26 and severed military ties with France, ending its status as a key African partner and base for French troops fighting jihadists. The takeover helped create a strip of military-run countries from the Atlantic to the Red Sea, most of which are more closely aligned with Russia than the West.

French nuclear group Orano SA has said it’s halting the uranium ore processing at one of its facilities in Niger because international sanctions against the military junta are hampering logistics. Niger has about 5% of the world’s uranium.

Read more: Macron’s Africa Strategy in Tatters as Bet on Niger Unravels

“Our ambassador, along with several diplomats, will return to France and we’re ending our military cooperation with the Niger’s current authorities because they no longer want to fight against terrorism,” Macron said Sunday. The gradual pullout will be completed “by the end of the year,” he said.

Tension between Niger and its former colonial power has grown since the junta took power. Niger banned commercial flights from using its airspace on Sunday, Agence France-Presse reported.

(Updates with Macron quote in third paragraph.)

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