UPDATE - US backs ECOWAS's efforts on Niger: Blinken

UPDATE - US backs ECOWAS's efforts on Niger: Blinken

'We very much support ECOWAS’s leadership and work on this,' says top US diplomat

ADDS STATEMENT FROM BLINKEN

By Iclal Turan

WASHINGTON (AA) - The US supports the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) following the coup in Niger, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday.

"ECOWAS, an organization that brings together West African countries, is playing a lead role in making clear the imperative of the return to constitutional order, and we very much support ECOWAS’s leadership and work on this," Blinken told reporters during a joint news conference with his Mexican counterpart Alicia Barcena Ibarra.

He said the US has "deep concern" for the security and well-being of Niger's ousted President Mohamed Bazoum and his family.

"We've also made clear to the military leaders that we will hold them responsible for his safety and well-being," Blinken said.

"We talked at some length about the way forward in Niger. And we're both focused on the same thing, which is the restoration of constitutional order," he added.

ECOWAS on Thursday ordered the activation of its standby force in order to "restore constitutional order" in coup-hit Niger.

Separately, in a written statement, Blinken said the US joins ECOWAS in "calling for the restoration of constitutional order in Niger."

"The United States appreciates the determination of ECOWAS to explore all options for the peaceful resolution of the crisis. Democracy is the best foundation for development, social cohesion, and stability in Niger. We stand with the Nigerien people in working toward these goals," he said.

Echoing ECOWAS’s condemnation of the detention of President Bazoum, his family and members of the government, he said: "Like ECOWAS, the United States will hold the (National) Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP) accountable for the safety and security of President Bazoum, his family, and detained members of the government."

Bazoum was ousted on July 26 in a military coup led by Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani, the former commander of Niger's presidential guard, who has declared himself the head of a transitional government.

Since then, Bazoum has reportedly been held hostage at the presidential palace in the capital Niamey.

Niger’s military junta announced a new government on Thursday, naming Ali Lamine Zeine as prime minister with a 21-member Cabinet.

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