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Niger Coup: ECOWAS Favours Diplomacy But Force Still On Table – Presidency

Nigeria’s president and head of the West African bloc ECOWAS has not ruled out military intervention in Niger, but believes diplomacy is the “best way forward” to resolve the crisis, his spokesman said Tuesday.

Bola Tinubu weighed in for the first time since the soldiers behind the coup in Niger defied the bloc’s Sunday deadline to reinstate elected president Mohamed Bazoum or face the possible use of force.

Meanwhile, efforts by ECOWAS and the United States to parlay with Niger’s new rulers have made no headway ahead of a crisis summit in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Thursday.

“No options have been taken off of the table,” Tinubu’s spokesman Ajuri Ngelale said — but Tinubu and other West African leaders favour diplomacy.

The United States said it still held out hope for reversing the coup but was “realistic” a day after a top US envoy made no visible progress in an unannounced visit.

“We do have hope that the situation will be reversed but at the same time, we are making clear, including in direct conversations with junta leaders themselves, what the consequences are for failing to return to constitutional order,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.

Earlier, the soldiers who seized power in Niamey on July 26 blocked a mission by ECOWAS in the runup to the summit.

In a letter, the coup leaders said that public “anger” triggered by ECOWAS sanctions meant the delegation’s safety could be at risk.

ECOWAS — the Economic Community of West African States — slapped trade and financial sanctions on Niger after rebel soldiers toppled Bazoum.

The bloc also gave Niger a seven-day ultimatum to reinstate Bazoum or face potential use of force, but the coup leaders defied the warning.

A source close to ECOWAS said on Monday that military intervention was not being immediately envisaged and the path to dialogue still appeared open.

The bloc sought to send a delegation to Niamey on Tuesday ahead of the crisis summit due to be held in Abuja the Nigerian capital on Thursday.

But the coup leaders’ letter, dated Monday, said: “The postponement of the announced mission to Niamey is necessary, as is the reworking of certain aspects of the (delegation’s) schedule.”

The schedule “includes meetings with certain personalities which cannot take place for obvious reasons of security given the atmosphere of the threat of aggression against Niger,” it said.