Benin provisionally reverses ban on oil exports from Niger

COTONOU (Reuters) – Benin has provisionally reversed its decision to block exports of crude oil from Niger via its port and agreed to hold a meeting between the two countries, the West African nation’s mines minister said on Wednesday.

Last week in an escalation of tensions with its neighbour, Benin said it had blocked exports from landlocked Niger, demanding the junta-led country reopen its border to goods and normalise relations before crude shipments can restart.

“We have decided to authorize the loading of the first vessel in our waters… However, it is important to note that this authorization is provisional,” minister Samou Seidou Adambi told reporters after a meeting with Chinese partners.

Benin intends to respect all the agreements within the pipeline project, Adambi said, adding that the country planned to hold a meeting to examine “urgent matters relating to the proper conduct of the pipeline’s export operations”.

Relations between Benin and Niger have been strained since a July 2023 coup in Niger led the West African regional bloc ECOWAS to impose strict sanctions for more than six months.

Trade flows in the region were expected to normalise after the West African regional bloc lifted sanctions to dissuade Niger from withdrawing from the political and economic union.

But Niger has kept its borders closed to goods from Benin and not formally told Benin why it has done so, President Patrice Talon said in a statement last week.

Niger’s Prime Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine said on Saturday that Benin’s blockade of Niger’s oil exports violated trade agreements between the two countries and with Niger’s Chinese partners.

He added that Niger could not fully reopen its border with Benin for security reasons.

The nearly 2,000 km (1,243-mile) PetroChina -backed pipeline was officially launched in November linking Niger’s Agadem oilfield to the Benin port of Cotonou.

(Reporting by Pulcherie Adjoha; Writing by Anait Miridzhanian; Editing by Bate Felix, William Maclean)

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