ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — West Africa’s divided regional bloc Sunday asked Senegal’s President Basirou Diomaye Faye to have a dialogue with the three military junta-led member states to try to reunite the region whose stability has been under threat following their decision to leave the group in January.

At its summit in Nigeria’s capital Abuja, the bloc — known as ECOWAS — appointed Faye as its envoy to meet with Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, which formed their separate union after their respective coups fractured relations with neighbors.

It was not immediately clear what the terms of the dialogue would be. The Senegalese president, who became Africa’s youngest leader after his election victory in March, “has all the credentials required to serve as a facilitator,” Omar Alieu Touray, the president of the ECOWAS Commission, said at the summit.

The three coup-hit countries already said at their summit a day earlier that they have “irrevocably turned their back on ECOWAS.” It is the first time in the bloc’s nearly 50-year history that it has lost members in such a manner.

Analysts viewed Faye’s assignment as important during an unprecedented regional crisis. Still, it will most likely “not be fruitful anytime soon” because of regional tensions that remain, said Karim Manuel, an analyst for the Middle East and Africa with the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Touray said it is the worst time for the block for years. “Our region is also faced with the risks of disintegration,” he added.

“When you get out of an agreement, certainly you don’t become part of that agreement. If it is about free trade, free movement of people, the risk of losing those concessions remains,” Touray said.

In addition to economic projects that ECOWAS said it might have to suspend in the three countries if they do not return, their withdrawal could also affect their citizens. ECOWAS — as West Africa’s top political and economic authority — offers free trade and movement without visas within member states.

The three countries’ departure from the bloc could also affect neighbors on different fronts. They all share borders and deadly security crises that are now spreading across the region and which the bloc is seeking their partnership to fight. Observers have also warned the coups in the countries could embolden other militaries, especially in countries where citizens have complained of not benefitting from their rich natural resources.

Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, who was asked to continue serving as the bloc’s chairman because his one-year tenure neared its end, called for stronger and new partnerships to develop the region amid its “enormous challenges.”

“Together, we can pave the way for a prosperous future for all of West Africa,’’ Tinubu said.

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