1 of 3 | Delegates from the Economic Community of West African States arrived in Niger Saturday to begin talks with the military leaders now in control of the landlocked country of more than 25 million people. Photo by Issifou Djibo/EPA-EFE
Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Delegates from the Economic Community of West African States arrived in Niger Saturday to begin talks with the military leaders now in control of the landlocked country of more than 25 million people.
The ruling military junta's leader, Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani agreed to meet the delegation, after two previous attempts had failed.
Earlier in the week, ECOWAS confirmed it was finalizing plans to send its Standby Force to the country.
Saturday's arrival of a political delegation is seen by many as a last ditch effort for a peaceful resolution to the situation in that country.
ECOWACS leaders are currently meeting in Ghana's capital city of Accra to discuss military intervention.
Niger president Mohamed Bazoum's government was overthrown in a military coup on July 26 by Tchiani and the so-called National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland. The council did not respond to demands from ECOWAS to ensure Bazoum's immediate release.
The 15-member union of West African states, of which Niger is a member, threatened retaliation if Bazoum was not released.
Military leaders responded by saying they have evidence to support treason charges against the 63-year-old, democratically-elected president. The council did not provide details on the scope of that evidence
They also closed Nigerian air space last week ahead of the ECOWAS-imposed deadline.
Bazoum remains under house arrest.
"What we want to see is a return to the constitutional order. We want to see the liberation of the president and his family and restoration of his legitimate authority," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters Friday.
U.S. President Joe Biden earlier this month called for Bazoum's immediate release.