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French ambassador to Niger returns to Paris amid escalating tensions
By Chris Liakos, CNN
The French ambassador to Niger, Sylvain Itte, has returned to Paris, the French Foreign Ministry told CNN on Wednesday.“Our ambassador to Niger returned to Paris today, as decided by the President of the Republic on Sunday,” the ministry said.According to the ministry, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna received Itte to thank him for his team’s service “in difficult conditions.”French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday that France had decided to bring back Itte and several other diplomats from Niger.
French ambassador is being ‘held hostage at the French embassy’ in Niger, says Macron.After their July coup, the Niger military junta ordered Itte to leave the country, and later revoked his visa.The ambassador remained in place following instructions from the French government, with French authorities saying that they do not recognize the junta’s authority.
Macron said earlier this month that the ambassador was “literally being held hostage at the French embassy,” and that “food was prevented from being delivered” to the embassy in Niamey, the country’s capital.Relations between the two countries have soured since the coup. Itte’s exit from Niger follows another decision by France to end its military presence in the West African nation by the end of this year.Around 1,500 French troops are stationed in Niger, many of whom are there to assist with counterterrorism missions.