France's ambassador to Niger, Sylvain Itte, has left the capital, Niamey, early Wednesday morning and has returned to Paris, the French Foreign Ministry said.
"The ambassador and six colleagues left Niamey around 4 a.m. (0300 GMT)," a diplomatic source from the French Embassy was quoted as saying by the French news agency AFP. Nigerien sources earlier confirmed the departure of the official.
France previously ignored expulsion order
Niger's military junta had ordered Itte's expulsion soon after seizing power in a coup on July 26. The country's leaders reiterated the order in August, setting a 48-hour ultimatum for Itte to leave.
But France ignored the requests, as the country does not recognize the legitimacy of Niger's military government. The EU backed France in its refusal to bring back its ambassador.
The decision sparked daily protests in front of the embassy, along with thousands rallying across the capital to demand the withdrawal of French troops.
Embassy staff 'held hostage' by junta
After ordering Itte's expulsion, Niger's junta stripped him of his diplomatic immunity and his visa, prompting comments from Macron that Itte and his staff were "literally being held hostage" at the embassy.
Macron said Niger's military was also blocking food deliveries to the building and that Itte was living off "military rations."
Despite the pressure from the junta, Macron had insisted on negotiating any deal to withdraw both the ambassador and France's troops with Niger's ousted President Bazoum.
France to withdraw troops as US, Germany wait
Niger's coup leaders ended military agreements with the former colonial power France in August, which will withdraw its around 1,500 troops by the end of this year.
Another 1,100 US troops as well as 100 from Germany's Bundeswehr will stay in Niger until further notice, the countries' defense ministers said on Monday.
Before the military coup in July, Niger was considered one of the West's last reliable partners in West Africa. Burkina Faso and Mali are also currently ruled by military leaders that took power through coups.
fg/fb (AFP, Reuters)