Contrary to what was stated the day before, the military junta that took power in Niger last month was not available to receive a delegation from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The previous night, after Washington called a “window of opportunity” to reverse the coup, US Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland met with Nigerian military leaders. The talks were described as “difficult”, to the point where the State Department spokesman now spoke of “realism”.
“We are still hopeful, but we are also very realistic,” said Matthew Miller. The US has 1,100 military personnel based in Agadez, where they direct drone operations against jihadist targets.
Attention is focused on the meeting of ECOWAS leaders, which will take place in Abuja on Thursday. Nigeria’s president (and also acting Commonwealth leader), Bola Tinubu, first commented on the situation through his spokesperson after the deadline for restoring constitutional order passed. “No option has been taken off the table,” including armed intervention, Tinubu spokesman Ajuri Ngelale said. But he also said the Nigerian leader believed in diplomacy as the “best way forward” to resolve the crisis.
For the time being, the Nigerian army has shown little openness. They claimed security concerns for rejecting a meeting with the ECOWAS delegation and after a two-hour meeting with Nuland, the US diplomat left empty-handed. A warning remained for Niger not to open its doors to the Russian Wagner mercenary group. “The people who have taken this action here understand very well the risks to their sovereignty when the Wagner group is invited,” he said.
And speaking to the BBC, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said he had no reason to believe that Russia was involved in the coup, but was now out to make a profit. “Everywhere the Wagner group went, death, destruction and exploitation followed,” he charged. In response, Yevgeny Prigozhin couldn’t be more clear: “Call us anytime,” referring to the Nigerian military.