Estonia will not make a decision on participating in an EU military mission to Niger until the situation on the ground becomes clearer, Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) said on Thursday after Nigerien soldiers launched a coup against the government.
"Yesterday's and tonight's developments in Niger force us to pull the brakes a little," said Pevkur at the government's weekly press conference.
"From my side, I am prepared to withdraw this draft immediately if it becomes clear that Niger's authorities do not want the European Union on the mission. For all missions, as always, the assumption is that the host country wants the mission. And since the situation there is confusing, we will have to wait for that information," he said.
The minister said Estonia is in close contact with its partners to understand what is happening on the ground. He said the information is currently contradictory.
"The information needs to settle," he told journalists.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Defense sent a draft resolution to the Riigikogu requesting authorization to send up to five members of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) to Niger as part of an EU Military Partnership Mission (EUMPM).
The EDF would help develop the country's armed forces' capabilities to contain terrorist threats and protect the local population. Niger requested the EU send a mission in December 2022.
But on Wednesday Nigerien soldiers announced a coup on national TV and detained the president. "It isn't clear who is really in charge," the BBC wrote.
MFA: "Deeply troubled" by events
A statement from Estonia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday expressed concerns about the situation.
"We are deeply troubled by the events in Niger. Estonia strongly condemns all efforts to threaten Niger's democratic foundations and calls for an immediate return to constitutional rule. We are in touch with EU allies & closely following developments," the statement said.
We are deeply troubled by the events in #Niger.#Estoniastrongly condemns all efforts to threaten Niger's democratic foundations and calls for an immediate return to constitutional rule.— Estonian MFA | #StandWithUkraine (@MFAestonia) July 27, 2023
We are in touch with #EU allies & closely following developments. https://t.co/iZ608yAiuh
Niger was one of the few democracies left in the Sahel belt which stretches across the continent. But now that the army has seized power, there are concerns over what this means for the troubled region," the BBC reported.
Additionally, there are concerns that Niger's new leadership could move away from its Western allies and closer to Russia.
Former colonial power France and the US have military bases in the country.
Editor: Mait Ots, Helen Wright