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U.S. still 'hopeful' but 'realistic' on trying to restore constitutional order in Niger

Anadolu Agency WORLD
Published August 08,2023
(AA Photo)

The U.S. said Tuesday it is "still hopeful" and "still trying to achieve a result" to get Niger to return to constitutional order after a military takeover.

"We do still have hope, but we're also very realistic," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.

"We are still hopeful, and we are still trying to achieve a result. That is a return to the constitutional order. We hope we don't have to get to that point where we need to make that determination because our hope is to see the constitutional order restored," he said.

Acting Deputy Secretary of State and Under Secretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland traveled Monday to Niger where she had "frank" and "difficult" talks with the leaders of the military coup.

Miller said the senior diplomat "made clear that there was a diplomatic path forward to them if they would choose to return to constitutional order."

"She also made clear that there will be consequences if they didn't," he said.

"(Nuland) heard in (her) meetings that there is support in civil society for return to constitutional order so we will continue to press for that," said Miller.

Regarding protests where supporters of Niger's coup waved Russian flags, Miller said: "The idea that the first thing anyone would do is run to a store and buy a Russian flag, that strikes me as somewhat an unlikely scenario."

"But I wanted to emphasize that what we heard what Acting Deputy Secretary Nuland heard in our meetings, the same thing we've heard in conversations we've had, there are civil society leaders and NGOs and others in the country who are very concerned, even if they're not always in a position to make those concerns public," he said.

Asked if the U.S. is still in a position of not calling what is happening in Niger a "coup," Miller responded: "It is at this point an attempted military takeover."

"We are still working to achieve a different outcome and we are hoping to see President Mohamed Bazoum released from house arrest," he said.

On July 26, a group of soldiers calling themselves the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Country. seized power after detaining Bazoum, saying they took the step due to the "deteriorating security situation and bad governance."

Bazoum was elected in 2021 in Niger's first democratic power transition since it gained independence from French colonial rule in 1960.

Many countries as well as regional blocs have called for the president to be reinstated. Coup leader Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani, however, has rejected those calls as interference in the country's internal affairs.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) bloc, which consists of 15 countries, will hold another emergency meeting Thursday to discuss the crisis.