Benin Gives Niger Temporal Access To Cotonou Port For Oil Shipment To China

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The Republic of Benin has provisionally reversed its decision to block exports of crude oil from Niger Republic to China via its Cotonou Port and agreed to hold a meeting between the two countries, the West African nation’s Minister for Water, Energy and Mines said on Wednesday.

Last week, three vessels carrying crude oil from Niger and destined for China arrived in Benin, but the Benin authorities prevented them from docking at the Cotonou Port.

President Patrice Talon declared that the Contonou Port would not be opened to Niger oil export unless the junta in Niamey ends the border blockade with Benin.

“If you want to load your oil in our waters, you can’t view Benin as an enemy and at the same time expect your oil to cross our territory,” President Patrice Talon said in a statement.

“We’re open to working with Niger. They’re the ones that refused to allow trucks to cross.

“Benin is not an enemy country and if tomorrow the Nigerien authorities decide to collaborate with Benin formally, the boats will be loaded,” he added.

However, on Wednesday, Benin’s Minister for Water, Energy and Mines, Samou Seïdou Adambi, announced that his country had decided to allow Niger to have access to their port after a meeting with Chinese partners, according to Reuters.

“We have decided to authorise the loading of the first vessel in our waters. However, it is important to note that this authorisation is provisional,” Samou Seidou Adambi told reporters after a meeting with the 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 the coup in Niger in July, which 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.

“Nonetheless, 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 re-open its border with Benin for security reasons.