The prime minister of Niger revealed on Monday that the military administration is in talks with France to ensure a swift withdrawal of French troops from the West African nation despite ongoing public protests against their stay there.
In recent days, thousands of protesters have gathered in Niamey, the capital of Niger, to voice their opposition to the deployment of French troops to the West African nation where the military ousted an elected president more than a month ago.
Prime Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine said during a press conference in Niamey that French forces are present in the country "illegally" since the military government "cancelled the agreements that allowed them to be on our territory."
“They are in a position of illegality, but I think that ongoing exchanges should allow these forces to withdraw from our country very quickly,” Zeine said.
Around 1,500 French soldiers are stationed in Niger as part of a regional counterinsurgency operation.
On August 3, Niger's military officials stated that they would be terminating their military cooperation with France. Paris rejected this decision, citing its lack of legitimacy.
Zeine also mentioned French Ambassador Sylvain Itte, who despite being expelled from the country last week and having his rights and immunities removed by military authorities, remained.
The French President Emmanuel Macron has praised Itte for his courage, but the premier claimed that Itte "did not behave properly as a diplomat."
Zeine stated that his government is also in talks with ECOWAS over the prospect of easing the "as soon as possible" harsh sanctions put in place against Niger as a result of the political crisis.
“We have been very open to dialogue, so we have not stopped the exchanges with ECOWAS. It's an ongoing process, and we hope that we will very quickly reach an agreement so that these sanctions imposed rather hastily on Niger are lifted,” he said.