The West African regional bloc Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) on Thursday said that junta-led Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso had failed to abide by the rules for quitting the bloc as regional ministers met to discuss departures that threaten decades of integration.
The three countries' self-appointed military leaders jointly announced on January 28 they were abandoning the political and economic bloc after it had pressured them to restore constitutional order following a string of coups.
Their departure threatens to further weaken Ecowas, which has struggled to curtail a retreat of democracy in West Africa that started with a military takeover in Mali in 2020.
Its mediation and security council met in Nigeria's capital Abuja to discuss both their departure and an electoral crisis in Senegal, where the 10-month delay of the presidential vote has sparked a public outcry and fears of unrest.
Regarding the countries leaving the bloc, Ecowas Commission President Omar Touray said in opening remarks that "the hasty decision of withdrawal of membership of Ecowas did not take into account the conditions for withdrawal".
"But more importantly, the three member states have not really reflected on the implications of this decision on the citizens," he said.
Touray did not specify which conditions had been ignored.
Member states wishing to withdraw must give a written one-year notice.
The three countries did so shortly after their announcement, but on Wednesday the juntas said they planned to leave "without delay" as they did not feel bound by treaty terms.
In a separate statement, they said Ecowas had violated its own texts by imposing excessively punitive sanctions, including border closures, in the wake of the coups.
Ecowas' Touray said the bloc had prepared two memoranda on their departure for consideration including an analysis on implications for member states and the wider community.
A document was also prepared on Senegal, where Touray said the postponement this week of the February 25 election to December posed a threat to regional peace and stability.
The council began a closed session after the opening remarks to deliberate on a collective response to both crises.