Following a coup that toppled President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26, President Emmanuel Macron has declared that France will resign its ambassador and cease any military cooperation with Niger.
“France has decided to withdraw its ambassador. In the next hours our ambassador and several diplomats will return to France,” Macron said.
He added that military co-operation was “over” and French troops would leave in “the months to come”.
The military junta which seized power in Niger in July welcomed the move, according to BBC.
“This Sunday we celebrate a new step towards the sovereignty of Niger,” the junta said in a statement.
There are about 1,500 French soldiers in the landlocked West African country helping to fight Islamist militants.
Also, the United States has more than 1,000 troops in Niger but these have not been asked to leave.
The decision by Paris follows months of animosity and protests against the French presence in its former colony, with regular demonstrations in the capital Niamey.
The move dealt a blow to France’s operations against jihadists in the wider Sahel region and Paris’ influence there.
But Macron said France would “not be held hostage by the putschists,” speaking to France’s TF1 and France 2 television stations.
The French President said he still regarded deposed Niger leader Bazoum, currently held prisoner by the coup leaders, as the country’s “sole legitimate authority” and had informed him of his decision. He described the deposed president as a “hostage”.
“He was targeted by this coup d’etat because he was carrying out courageous reforms and because there was a largely ethnic settling of scores and a lot of political cowardice,” he said.
Niger is one of several former French colonies in West and Central Africa where the military has recently seized control – it follows Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Chad. The latest coup was in Gabon in August.