The French army is holding talks with Niger’s military over withdrawing “elements” of its presence there following a coup, a defense ministry source said on Tuesday.
There has been speculation that France will be forced into a full military pullout from Niger after the July 26 putsch, which ousted French ally President Mohamed Bazoum.
Some 1,500 troops are deployed in Niger as part of France’s wider fight against jihadists in the Sahel.
The country became a crucial hub for France after coups forced the withdrawal of French troops from neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso.
“Discussions on the withdrawal of certain military elements have begun,” the defence ministry source told AFP, asking not to be named. The source did not give details.
Earlier, a source close to Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu told AFP that talks were in progress about “easing movements of French military resources” in Niger.
That source noted that French forces had been “immobilised since anti-terrorist cooperation was suspended” following the military takeover.
Relations between Niger and France, the country’s former colonial power and traditional ally, went swiftly downhill after Paris stood by the elected Bazoum and declared the post-coup regime to as illegitimate.
On August 3, the coup leaders renounced several military cooperation agreements with France, including one with a month-long notice period that expired on Sunday.
Niger’s military-appointed Prime Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine said Monday that “contacts” were under way about a “very swift” departure for Paris’ troops.
Zeine nevertheless said he hoped to “maintain cooperation if possible with a country with which we have shared many things.”
The French forces are mostly based at an airfield near the capital Niamey, which in recent days has been targeted by thousands of protesters calling on them to leave.
The coup has been seen as a new major blow to French influence in the region following military takeovers in Mali in 2020 and Burkina Faso in 2022.
Late last month, a coup also overthrew Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba, whose father Omar held power for more than four decades.
But France has reacted with more restraint over the end of the 55-year pro-French dynasty in Gabon than it did over the fall of its ally Bazoum.