Niger junta agrees to talks to repair ties with Benin

NIAMEY (Reuters) - Niger's junta has agreed to talks with Benin's government, led by two former Benin presidents, to help restore relations after a coup in Niger last year led to the border closing and a China-backed oil pipeline shutting down.

Niger agreed to the talks after a meeting between its military leader General Abdourahamane Tiani and Benin's former presidents Thomas Boni Yayi and Nicephore Soglo on June 24, according to a statement by Niger's government on Tuesday.

Authorities in both countries told Reuters on Wednesday that no date had been decided for the meeting.

A resolution could enable the resumption of oil flowing to China via the PetroChina -backed pipeline. Niger suspended oil exports through the 2,000-km (1,243-mile) pipeline to Benin's coast in mid-June as tensions over the border closure escalated.

The tensions date to Niger's July 2023 coup, which led the regional bloc Economic Community of West African States to impose sanctions on Niger for more than six months.

Relations between Niger and its neighbours have been strained since, with Niger accusing Benin of hosting insurgents plotting to destabilise the Sahel nation. Benin has denied the accusations.

The pipeline was sabotaged in June by an armed Niger rebel group opposed to the junta, causing minor damage.

Tiani told the Beninese former heads of state that he was open to a frank dialogue and accepted a proposal from them to defuse tensions, according to Tuesday's statement.

"He agreed to the principle of forming a commission comprised of representatives from Niger's government, Benin's government and the two visiting former Beninese heads of state," the statement said.

The former leaders held a follow-up meeting with Benin's president, Patrice Talon, on Monday, they said in a separate statement.

"The president and the former presidents agreed on the need to reestablish dialogue as agreed by all parties," it said.

(Reporting by Moussa Aksar in Niamey and Pulcherie Adjoha in Cotonou; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Rod Nickel)