President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that France’s envoy to Niger is living as a hostage in the French embassy and accused the military rulers of blocking the delivery of food to the mission.
“As we speak, we have an ambassador and diplomatic staff who are literally being held hostage in the French embassy,” he said.
But a 48-hour ultimatum for him to leave, issued in August, passed with him still in effect, as the French government refused to comply or recognize the military regime as legitimate.
Macron said the envoy “cannot go out, is persona non grata and is denied food.”
Asked if France would consider bringing him home, Macron said: “I will do what we agree with President Bazoum because he is the legitimate authority and I talk to him every day.”
France maintains about 1,500 troops in Niger and said earlier this month that any redeployment could only be negotiated with Bazoum.
The country’s new leaders have broken military cooperation agreements with France and called on troops to leave quickly.
Macron has for weeks rejected calls to sack the French ambassador, a stance backed by the EU which has called the demand a “provocation”.
Like France, EU foreign affairs spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said last month, the EU “does not recognize” the authorities that seized power in Niger.
The impoverished Sahel The sub-Saharan region has suffered what Macron has called an “epidemic” of coups in recent years, with military regimes replacing elected governments in evil, Burkina Faso and Guinea as well as Niger.