Italy has urged the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, to extend its deadline for the reinstatement of Niger’s ousted president.
Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani gave the advice in an interview published on Monday.
“The only way is the diplomatic one. I hope that the ultimatum of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which expired last night at midnight, will be extended today,” Tajani told La Stampa newspaper.
Niger had on Sunday closed its airspace until further notice, citing the threat of military intervention from the West African regional bloc after coup leaders rejected a deadline to reinstate the country’s ousted president Mohammed Bazoum.
Earlier, thousands of junta supporters flocked to a stadium in Niamey, the capital, cheering the decision not to cave into external pressure to stand down by Sunday following the July 26 power grab.
The coup, the seventh in West and Central Africa in three years, has rocked the Sahel region, one of the poorest in the world.
Given its uranium and oil riches and its pivotal role in a war with Islamist militants, Niger holds importance for the U.S., Europe, China, and Russia.
Defence chiefs of the bloc have agreed on a possible military action plan, including when and where to strike, if the detained president, Mohamed Bazoum, is not released and reinstated by the deadline.
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