By Jennifer Hansler, CNN
(CNN) — The United States “is pausing certain foreign assistance programs benefiting the government of Niger” amid the military takeover in the West African country, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Friday.
Blinken described it as an “interim measure” and said it does not impact all foreign assistance programs.
“Most importantly, the provision of life-saving humanitarian and food assistance will continue,” Blinken said in a statement. “Further, we are continuing U.S. government activities in Niger where feasible to do so, including diplomatic and security operations, for the protection of U.S. personnel.”
“This is consistent with steps taken by ECOWAS and the African Union,” he said. “The U.S. government will continue to review our foreign assistance and cooperation as the situation on the ground evolves consistent with our policy objectives and legal restrictions.”
“As we have made clear since the outset of this situation, the provision of U.S. assistance to the government of Niger depends on democratic governance and respect for constitutional order,” Blinken said.
Indeed, Blinken and others have reiterated that US assistance is at risk unless the coup leaders restore democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum to power.
The US and partners have been engaged in intensive diplomatic efforts to try to restore democratic rule to Niger, which had become a point of stability in the Sahel region. The Economic Community of West African States has warned that they will use military force unless the coup leaders back down by Sunday.
“We’re working hard with ECOWAS to coordinate the negotiations,” a senior State Department official said Thursday. “We have our own equities as well, so, we’re also working with them, the military in Niger, to understand the consequences of, if this succeeds, what that would mean for our partnership going forward.”
In recent days, the US State Department ordered the departure of non-emergency personnel and family members from the country, though the embassy remains open and the roughly 1,100 US troops stationed in Niger remain there.
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