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Hassoumi Massaoudou, Niger’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, answers questions from France 24 and RFI. According to him, if Niger experiences, on its border with Mali, “a lull thanks to the effective work carried out by (the Task Force) Takuba and (the operation) Barkhane”, the withdrawal of French and European forces will lead to “a greater pressure” on his country. The arrival of the French army on the Niger side of the border “will make it possible to strengthen the cordon sanitaire in relation to the terrorist sanctuary that is northern Mali”.
The head of Niger’s diplomacy denies the presence of Russian mercenaries – “We tell grotesque things” – and considers that “the power and the rapid devastating effect of a certain type of communication” would be at the origin of anti-French sentiment, especially during the recent affair of the French military convoy taken to task. “The government will assume its responsibility”, which underlines according to him that Niger is “in the process of proving [qu’il est] a democratic and stable state (…), capable of defeating terrorism”.
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Despite the Malian junta’s request for French and European forces to leave “without delay”, Hassoumi Massaoudou believes that this withdrawal will be carried out responsibly. He affirms that the departure of these forces from the border area with his country risks creating a call for air for the jihadists. And castigates the absence of the Malian army in this area. This requires the creation of a sanitary cordon on the Niger side in order to prevent the jihadists from reaching the countries of the Gulf of Guinea. Hassoumi Massaoudou confirms that Western forces will be stationed in Niger, without giving figures. He expresses serious doubts about the ability of Russian fighters to reverse the situation. And recalls that ECOWAS prohibits the presence of mercenaries.
Regarding the risk of rekindling anti-French sentiment by having a reinforced tricolor military presence in Niger, the Minister of Foreign Affairs announced that his government would pledge its confidence in Parliament on the subject in the coming weeks. And rejects any parallel between Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, stressing that the security and political situation is much more stable than in its two neighbors who suffered putschs.