Josep Borrell, head of European diplomacy (in the center), with the twenty-seven foreign ministers of the European Union, in Toledo, Thursday August 31, 2023. ANDREA COMAS / AP
Meeting in Toledo, Spain, Thursday, August 31, the foreign ministers of the European Union remained extremely cautious about the position to adopt in the Sahel. If they agree on the creation of a sanctions regime against the junta in power in Niger since July 26, it is quite different on the military level. The prospect of a military intervention, mentioned for a time by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), has for the moment been completely ruled out. France, which supports this option if necessary, appeared isolated.
The August 30 coup in Gabon was also mentioned and condemned, but “it has nothing to do with the situation in Niger, stressed Josep Borrell, the head of European diplomacy. In Niger, a democratically elected president was deposed, while in Gabon, the president was reappointed after elections whose democratic nature raises many doubts. »
In general, the fate of Mr. Bongo has been much less discussed than that of his Nigerian counterpart, Mohamed Bazoum, under house arrest since July 26. “The coup in Niger marks a new era of instability in the Sahel regioncommented Mr. Borrell. And the foreign ministers were very clear: priority must be given to the diplomatic channel to restore constitutional order. They also reaffirmed their desire to find an African solution to an African situation, hence our support for ECOWAS. »
France “has no interest in displaying itself”
Invited to Toledo to explain the situation on the ground, the president of the ECOWAS commission, Omar Alieu Touray, and the foreign minister of the overthrown government in Niger, Hassoumi Massoudou, recalled that “the only management framework for this crisis is that of ECOWAS”. Thursday evening, its president, Bola Tinubu, head of state of Nigeria, suggested in a statement a nine-month transition for the military in power in Niger, like what had happened in his country in the 1990s. The sanctions imposed on Niger by the organization will not be reduced without “positive adjustments” soldiers in Niamey, continues the press release.
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« Europe must not be perceived as imposing its solution from the outside”, said Alexander Schallenberg, the head of Austrian diplomacy. Very discreet, Catherine Colonna, her French counterpart, avoided microphones and cameras. “Today, France is being targeted in Niger, so it has no interest in showing off”deciphers a European diplomat.
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