Foreign nationals have lined up outside an airport in Niger’s capital waiting for a third evacuation flight, while a regional bloc continued talks about its response to the coup that took place last week.

After a third flight was cancelled the night before, hundreds of people lined up outside the terminal at Niamey’s airport before sunrise on Wednesday, hoping to leave.

France, Italy and Spain all announced evacuations for their citizens and other Europeans following last week’s military coup, which ousted and detained President Mohamed Bazoum.

The United States has yet to announce plans for an evacuation. However, some have left with the help of the Europeans.

French forces in the capital, Niamey, evacuated hundreds of mostly French nationals to Paris on two flights on Tuesday, following concerns that their citizens and other Europeans risked becoming trapped by the coup.

The first of two French flights that landed in Paris overnight had 12 babies among 262 people aboard, most of them French but including evacuees from Niger, Portugal, Belgium, Ethiopia and Lebanon, France’s Foreign Ministry said.

An Italian military aircraft landed in Rome Wednesday with 99 passengers, including 21 Americans and civilians from other countries, said the Italian defence minister.

ECOWAS military intervention

On Sunday, ECOWAS said it would use force against the junta if it didn’t release and reinstate the president within a week.

The announcement was immediately rejected by neighbouring Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea, all of which are run by mutinous soldiers who toppled their governments.

Mali and Burkina Faso’s leaders said a military intervention in Niger “would be tantamount to a declaration of war” against them.

On Tuesday, the US said its Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with President Bazoum and underscored that the US rejects efforts to overturn the constitutional order, and stands with the people of Niger, ECOWAS, the African Union and international partners in support of democratic governance and respect for the rule of law and human rights.

The defence chiefs of ECOWAS’ 15 members will meet in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, from Wednesday to Friday to discuss the next steps in resolving the crisis, the bloc said in a statement.

At a virtual United Nations meeting on Tuesday night, the UN special envoy for West Africa and the Sahel said that efforts other than the threat of force are underway to restore democracy in Niger.

“One week can be more than enough if everybody talks in good faith, if everybody wants to avoid bloodshed,” said Leonardo Santos Simao. But, he added, “different member states are preparing themselves to use force if necessary.”

But some in the diplomatic community believe the use of force could be a real option.

ECOWAS is resolved to use military force after economic and travel sanctions have failed to roll back other coups, said a Western diplomat in Niamey who did not want to be identified for security reasons.


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