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Macron digs in amid diplomatic 'hostage' claims

The French president says his ambassador and diplomatic staff in Niamey, are effectively hostages and living off military rations as the junta blocks food deliveries to the embassy

The diplomatic standoff between France and Niger's military junta shows no sign of abating as President Emmanuel Macron continues to dig in (Dispatches 30/8/23, Macron steps up the rhetoric against the Niamey junta).

On 15 September, President Macron told reporters that France's ambassador in Niamey, Sylvain Itté, and French diplomatic staff 'are literally being held hostage in the French embassy'.

Itté and his staff are living off military rations, said Macron, who accused the military junta of blocking food deliveries to the embassy. Itté was declared persona non grata and ordered to leave Niger by the junta several weeks ago. Macron has refused to comply with the order and continues to recognise ousted President Mohamed Bazoum – with whom he speaks every day – as the legitimate head of the  government.

In the meantime, France has suspended its visa programmes for students and artists from Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali, citing the closure of French consular services in the countries and the security situation. Development aid from Paris has also been suspended.

Paris has welcomed the release from detention last week of Stephane Jullien, a Niger-based businessman who had a role as an adviser to French expats, following his arrest last Friday. However, public protests continue outside France's military bases in Niger (AC Vol 64 No 18, The withdrawal starts).

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