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Niger: France “Strongly” Supports ECOWAS’ Quest To Return Democratic Government- Minister

The French minister for Europe and foreign affairs, Catherine Colonna has disclosed that France is “strongly” in support of efforts by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to “defeat” the coup in the Niger Republic.

Colonna spoke on Saturday when she visited Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou, prime minister of the Niger Republic, at Quai d’Orsay.

The French minister was accompanied by Aichatou Boulama, France’s ambassador to Niger.

On July 25, a coup was staged in Niger, leading to the ouster of President Mohamed Bazoum and other political leaders from office.

Abdourahmane Tiani, former head of Bazoum’s presidential guard, later declared himself as the head of state.

President Bola Tinubu, chairperson of ECOWAS, had subsequently said military force would be deployed to Niger if Bazoum is not reinstated in one week.

Commenting on the series of events on Saturday, the French minister called on the coup plotters to immediately return to democratic rule.

“France strongly and firmly supports ECOWAS’s efforts to defeat this coup attempt,” she said.

Colonna said France remains committed to the future of Niger and the stability of the entire region.

“ECOWAS gave the putschists a seven-day deadline to end their coup. It expires tomorrow, Sunday, August 6,” she said.

“France solemnly calls on those responsible for this coup attempt to release President Bazoum and all members of his government, and to allow the immediate return to constitutional and democratic order.”

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International

British new PM, Starmer embarks on first foreign trip to Washington

UK Prime Minister Keir Starmer jets off to Washington Tuesday to attend NATO’s 75th anniversary summit, his first foreign trip since becoming British leader last Friday following a landslide election victory.

He will reaffirm Britain’s enduring support for the Western military alliance and Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression.

Starmer, 61, told a meeting of his top team that the summit represents an opportunity to “reset relationships, reinvigorate our unshakeable commitment to the alliance and demonstrate the strength of Britain on the world stage”.

The visit kicks off a whirlwind of international diplomacy in Starmer’s first two weeks in power, with the UK also hosting a European leaders’ conference next week.

“It will be an opportunity for him to learn and get to know other leaders as much as to communicate any particular messages,” foreign policy expert James Strong told AFP.

Britain’s previous Conservative government was one of Ukraine’s staunchest allies, providing money, weapons and troop training to help it repel Russia’s invasion.

Starmer has pledged continued support for Kyiv under Labour, and is expected to reaffirm that message in person to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the NATO meeting.

Starmer’s Defence Secretary John Healey has already visited Ukraine since last Thursday’s election, and Foreign Secretary David Lammy has been visiting European NATO members.

Labour is committed to the alliance and wants to match the Conservatives’ promise to raise defence spending to 2.5 percent of GDP, above the NATO target of two percent.

We can expect lots of talk about ‘business as usual’,” added Strong, a lecturer at Queen Mary University of London.

While Starmer will stress continuity on the main foreign policy issues, he will also be keen to signal a reset in relations with allies that were soured by Brexit.

Labour has pledged closer cooperation with European neighbours, including on bilateral deals with France and Germany but also on agreements with the EU bloc as a whole.

We can expect to hear a lot of talk about improving relations, about being a more reliable partner, and above all about being more stable and predictable,” said Strong.

The trip also presents an early opportunity for Starmer to build a rapport with US President Joe Biden and cement the so-called UK-US special relationship.

Starmer’s centre-left Labour party is more closely aligned with Biden’s Democratic Party than the Conservatives, which could help, but the trip comes at a sensitive time for the US president.

Following a poor debate performance, Biden, 81, is under pressure to make way and allow a younger Democrat to take on Republican rival Donald Trump in November’s presidential election.

Starmer will be mindful that he may have to deal with the isolationist Trump from January next year.

“(He) will want to demonstrate his rock-solid commitment to the UK’s alliance with America, and to send a strong signal about the resilience of the ‘special relationship’, whatever lies ahead,” Sophia Gaston, head of foreign policy at the right-wing Policy Exchange think-tank, told AFP.

A point of contention between Starmer and Biden could be the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, with Labour viewed as more pro-Palestinian than Washington.

The leaders are also likely to discuss policy towards China, including on trade, commerce and technology.

Starmer will then host the European Political Community summit at Blenheim Palace, near Oxford, in central England, on July 18, with France’s president Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s leader Olaf Scholz expected to attend.

Labour wants “an ambitious” security pact with the European Union.

Olivia O’Sullivan, director of the UK in the world programme at the Chatham House international affairs think-tank, told AFP the two summits “provide an opportunity to put more meat on the bones of this proposal”.

Starmer may also want to flesh out the shape of a post-Brexit trading deal, after his introduction to life on the global stage in Washington.

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International

UK PM, Keir Starmer, appoints cabinet members

New UK’s Prime Minister, Keir Starmer has begun the appointment of his cabinet as he appointed some Labour stalwarts to occupy offices.

He has so far appointed 23 of his cabinet members with more to come later.

The PM appointed Angela Rayner as the Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for levelling up, Housing and Communities, he announced Rachel Reeves as Chancellor. Reeves has become the first female Chancellor.

David Lammy was announced as Foreign Secretary; Yvette Cooper as Home Secretary, John Healey as Defence Secretary and Pat McFadden as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Starmer also named Hilary Benn as Northern Ireland Secretary, Ian Murray as Scottish Secretary, Jo Stevens as Welsh Secretary, Jonathan Reynolds as Business and Trade Secretary, Peter Kyle as Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary and Louise Haigh as Transport Secretary.

The PM further appointed Shabana Mahmood as Justice Secretary, Wes Streeting as Health Secretary, Bridget Phillipson as Education Secretary, Ed Miliband as the Energy Secretary and Liz Kendall as Work and Pensions Secretary.

Also Steve Reed has been appointed as Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary; Lisa Nandy as Culture Secretary and Diane Abbott as Mother of the House.

Lucy Powell has been appointed Lord President of the Council and leader of the House of Commons, while Baroness Smith of Basildon has been appointed Lord Privy Seal and leader of the House of Lords.

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International

Buckingham palace confirms Sunak’s resignation

The Buckingham Palace has confirmed Rishi Sunak’s resignation as UK Prime Minister (PM) after his party, the Conservative lost the general election to Labour Party.

Sunak had arrived the Palace 10:57am to meet King Charles to officially tender his resignation to pave way for Keir Starmer to become the new PM.

A statement from the palace said: “The right honourable Rishi Sunak MP had an audience of the King this morning and tendered his resignation as prime minister and first lord of the Treasury, which his majesty was graciously pleased to accept.”

After his resignation, Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty left left Buckingham Palace.

He left the palace gates now as a former prime minister after resigning during an audience with the King.

The former PM had earlier accepted the outcome of the election and congratulated Starmer for his party’s victory at the poll.

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