Germany to keep military base in Niger open under temporary deal, Berlin says

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany will keep its military air transport hub in Niger's capital Niamey open for now, the defence ministry in Berlin said late on Tuesday, shortly after the European Union announced it would end its military mission in the country by June 30.

Berlin has some 90 troops based in Niamey at the moment.

Until a coup in 2023, Niger had been a partner of the West in Africa's Sahel region against militants who have killed thousands of people and displaced millions more.

However, the military rulers have pushed former colonial power France to remove its forces and agreed on the withdrawal of American troops, while deepening ties with Russia.

"Germany and Niger have struck a temporary agreement allowing for the continued presence of German forces in Niger," the German defence ministry said in a statement, adding that this would enable Berlin to keep the base open beyond May 31 for now.

Germany has used the base in Niamey since 2013 as a supply hub for its forces in neighbouring Mali where they were serving as part of the United Nations peacekeeping mission MINUSMA. The last German troops left Mali at the end of 2023.

It was not immediately clear what Berlin's plans are for the continued use of the base in Niamey.

The defence ministry said the temporary deal offered the opportunity to strike a new agreement allowing for the presence of German forces.

For now, the military will operate the base with a significantly reduced number of soldiers, the statement said.

On Monday, the EU announced it would end a military mission comprising dozens of soldiers in Niger by June 30, citing the junta-run nation's "grave political situation."

Established in 2022, the mission in one of the world's poorest countries has some 50 to 100 European troops there to help with logistics and infrastructure.

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; editing by Jonathan Oatis)