US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has threatened Niger’s junta for the “unacceptable condition” of the country’s ousted Western-backed President Mohamed Bazoum in yet another intervention in the nation’s internal affairs.
In a statement on Thursday, Blinken voiced grave concern that Bazoum, who was ousted by members of the Presidential Guard (PG) on July 26, is being held captive “illegally” in “unacceptable conditions,” calling for his immediate release.
The US “will hold the Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP) accountable for the safety and security of President Bazoum, his family, and detained members of the government,” he said.
Blinken also voiced support for the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) bloc to restore “constitutional order” in Niamey by any means in the wake of the coup.
The top US diplomat said Washington stands with the bloc in calling on Niger’s military government to step down, stressing the need for political stability and “social cohesion.”
The US and France, both having military bases in the West African country, have already announced they endorse the ECOWAS resolution against the coup leaders.
ECOWAS ordered on Thursday the deployment of a standby force for possible armed intervention in Niamey, saying the coup leaders have “defiantly” resisted all diplomatic efforts to restore democratic order.
The bloc, however, insisted that using force would be a “last resort” as they sought peaceful solutions to the crisis in landlocked Niger.
Earlier, another top US diplomat had held secret talks with the junta putschists, demanding the undoing of Niger’s coup and the return of power to its ousted Western-backed president, suggesting a military intervention if they refused.
Veteran diplomat and Acting Deputy US Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, speaking to reporters before her departure from Niger’s capital Niamey, described her talks with the coup leaders as “extremely frank and at times quite difficult.”
She said that she offered them “a number of options” to exit the crisis and restore their ties with the US military.
Otherwise, she said, the US would support the military option for resolving the crisis.