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Germany to surrender key airbase in Niger after talks fail

Germany is to surrender control of its airbase in Niger after failing to reach agreement with the Nigerien authorities on legal immunity for its military personnel, the Defence Ministry informed parliament in Berlin on Saturday.

The airbase in Niamey, a key asset in Western efforts to contain terrorism in the region, is to close on August 31, by which all the troops stationed there will have returned to Germany.

According to the Defence Ministry’s note to parliament, which has been seen by dpa, the government has “reassessed” changes in the situation over recent weeks and taken the decision to leave.

“The draft agreement passed to us by Niger cannot serve as basis for negotiations on a status agreement, with respect neither to its nature nor to its contents,” the Defence Ministry wrote. Immunity for German troops had not been assured, and the positions of the two sides were far apart, it said.

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Talks on a status agreement have been abandoned, and cooperation and training projects provided by the German Defence and Foreign Ministries would no longer be pursued, it said.

The Niamey airbase served as the logistics hub for the UN’s MINUSMA peacekeeping mission in neighbouring Mali which was set up in 2013 and terminated a year ago.

The Niger army took control of the country in a coup on July 26 last year. German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius nevertheless backed limited cooperation with the coup leaders under certain conditions.

Following coups in Mali and Burkina Faso, Niger was for a time seen as the West’s last democratically ruled partner in battling terrorism in the region, which has suffered repeated attacks by Islamist groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

Russia has become increasingly active in the region.

dpa

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