ALGIERS, (Reuters) – Algeria has refused a French request to fly over its airspace for a military operation in Niger, state radio said late on Monday, after a July 26 coup in the West African nation that lies south of the Algerian border.
Algeria opposes any foreign military action in Niger and favours diplomacy to restore constitutional order, state radio said.
France has about 1,500 troops in Niger that were stationed there before last month’s coup. It is not clear what military operation Algeria was referring to, but France has not said it would intervene militarily to overturn the military takeover.
West Africa’s main regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said last week said it had agreed an undisclosed “D-Day” for a possible military intervention if diplomatic efforts fail – an escalation that could further destabilise a conflict-torn and impoverished region.
On Tuesday, the African Union’s Peace and Security Council said in a communique that Niger had been immediately suspended from all African Union activities.
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune voiced Algerian fears about an armed response early this month, saying “a military intervention could ignite the whole Sahel region and Algeria will not use force with its neighbours”.
The North African country worries about repercussions such as an influx of migrants into its territory, a government source familiar with the situation told Reuters.
“We are against the coup but we are against a military action that would worsen the situation in Niger and beyond in the Sahel,” the source who asked not to be named told Reuters.
French authorities did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
France’s military presence in West Africa has become increasingly tenuous amid a wave of coups in the Sahel region since 2020.
Its forces have been kicked out of Mali and Burkina Faso and anti-French sentiment has grown on the streets of Niger’s capital Niamey since the July 26 coup. Meanwhile, Russian influence in the region has grown.
Algeria has had difficult relations with France – its former colonial ruler – sparring over Sahel security and other regional issues, disputes over their shared history, French media coverage of Algeria and human rights issues.