Niger junta ends security deals with EU, turns to Russia for defense cooperation

by MMC
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Niger’s junta on Monday canceled two key military agreements that the West African country had signed with the European Union to help combat violence in Africa’s Sahel region, as army chiefs country and a senior Russian defense official were discussing military cooperation.

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Before the coup that removed the country’s president, Mohamed Bazoum, Niger had been the last great country of the West and Europe security partner in the Sahel, the vast region south of the Sahara Desert that Islamic extremist groups have transformed into a hotspot for global terrorism.

In a note, the Nigerien Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the government had decided to “withdraw the privileges and immunities granted” under the EU military partnership mission in Niger which was launched in February and that, therefore, “has no legal obligations” related to this partnership.

He also rejected the EU Civilian Capacity Building Mission established in 2012 to strengthen Niger’s internal security sector, effectively revoking its approval for missions.

These developments are the latest in growing political tensions between Niger and the EU since the July coup.

In a rare visit on Sunday, a Russian delegation led by RussiaDeputy Defense Minister Lounous-Bek Evkourov met with the head of the Nigerien junta, General Abdourahmane Tchiani, and the Minister of State for National Defense, Salifou Mody. The two sides held further meetings on Monday to discuss military and defense issues.

“At the center of the discussions is the strengthening of cooperation between the two countries in the field of defense,” the Nigerien Ministry of Defense said in a press release.

Most of Niger’s foreign economic and security allies have sanctioned the country, including France, which had 1,500 troops operating in Niger. Everyone was asked to leave.

Analysts say that while regional and international sanctions aimed at forcing the junta to reverse its coup have strained the country, they have also emboldened the military government as it consolidates its grip on power and looking for new partnerships.

(PA)

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