ECOWAS delegation meets ousted Niger president, junta leader



A delegation from West Africa's main regional bloc ECOWAS on Saturday met Niger's ousted President Mohamed Bazoum and held talks with junta leader General Abdourahmane Tchiani in the capital Niamey, a Nigerian presidential spokesperson said.

The West African group is pursuing diplomatic ways to reverse the July 26 coup. The coup leaders' acceptance of the mission could signal a new willingness to negotiate after the bloc on Friday doubled-down on its threat to use force as a last resort to restore democracy. It said an undisclosed "D-Day" had been agreed for possible military intervention.

While previous ECOWAS missions have been rebuffed, Saturday's delegation was met at Niamey airport by the junta-appointed prime minister, an ECOWAS source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The group that flew in was led by Nigeria's former military leader Abdulsalami Abubakar and included ECOWAS commission President Omar Touray, the source said.

Nigerian presidential spokesperson Abdulaziz Abdulaziz posted a photo of the delegation meeting Bazoum.

"After meeting .... (junta leader) General Abdoulrahmane Tchiani, the ECOWAS delegation in Niger have also visited President Mohamed Bazoum this evening," he wrote on messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

He did not share details on the outcome of talks.

There was no immediate comment on the negotiations from the junta, which has held Bazoum since seizing power despite international calls for his release.

But in a televised address to the nation on Saturday evening, Tchiani said neither coup leaders nor "the Nigerien people want war and remain open to dialogue."

He cautioned that Niger was ready to defend itself if needed. "If an aggression were to be undertaken against us, it would not be the walk in the park that some believe," he said.

In the meantime, Tchiani said the junta was pursuing its own agenda and would launch a national dialogue to consult on a transition back to democracy, which "should last no longer than three years."