French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday said that the French Ambassador to Niger and other French diplomats are "literally being held hostage at the French Embassy," reported CNN.
France has been at odds with Niger's new military leadership, after France's refusal to accept the July 26 coup that toppled President Mohamed Bazoum, a French ally. French President Emmanuel Macron has continued to support Bazoum, who is still being held.
During Macron's visit to the Golden Coast region in France, Macron said the embassy in Niamey is not getting food delivered to them.
"Food was prevented from being delivered” to the embassy in Niamey, and the ambassador was “eating military rations," he said. Macron further said that the French Ambassador to Niger, Sylvain Itte "cannot go out", according to CNN.
Reportedly, the military junta ordered Itte to leave the country as soon as they seized control of the West African country in July.
However, later on, it revoked his visa and asked police to expel him, reported CNN. According to Macron, he remained in place and the French authorities reiterated that they do not recognize the junta authorities, according to CNN. When asked about bringing the ambassador back to France, Macron said that, "
Asked if he would work on bringing the ambassador back home, Macron emphasized “I will do whatever we agree on with President Mohamed Bazoum because he is the legitimate authority and I speak with him every day.”
Moreover, Itte is still working, according to French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, reported CNN. Colonna in an interview said, "The ambassador is working, I can confirm that, and he is very useful through his contacts, his team, there is still a small team with him," CNN reported.
She further said that Itte "will stay as long as we want him to stay" and his return will depend on Macron's decision.
However, France is reportedly in discussions with the military of Niger over the possible withdrawal of its troops from the West African country due to the deterioration of relations following a coup in July, Al Jazeera reported citing French media reports.
Nicolas Normand, a former French ambassador to Mali and Senegal, confirmed the information to Al Jazeera, stating that, in accordance with his sources, negotiations to "partially" evacuate soldiers between the French and Niger forces were in progress.
The discussions between the two militaries, according to Normand's source, should not be seen as a recognition of the coup leaders but rather as a "technical" discussion.
Thousands of people rallied for days in the capital Niamey in support of the new regime's uncompromising attitude against the former colonial power and the coup leaders' call for the French ambassador and military to leave Niger.