By Jemal Oumar
Algerian Maghreb and African Affairs Minister Abdelkader Messahel paid a visit to Nouakchott Sunday (October 7th) to co-ordinate a unified position on Islamist-controlled northern Mali.
After a lengthy meeting with President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, Messahel said that Mauritania and Algeria seek a political solution in Mali with respect to the prospect of a military intervention in the north of the country.
“We agree on the importance of conducting a dialogue to resolve differences, and finding appropriate political solutions in the context of the integrity and sovereignty of Mali,” Messahel said.
The Algerian official added that both states were “in favour of the fight against terrorism and organised crime by all means and at the same time support dialogue to bring about political solutions”.
Messahel revealed that there was a shared strategic action plan for countries in the region (Algeria, Niger, Mali and Mauritania) at the political, military, and security levels to address the crisis in the Sahel.
Algeria has repeatedly stated its preference for a political solution to the crisis, rather than the military options being discussed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Mauritanian Foreign Minister Hamadi Ould Hamadi told reporters during his meeting with Messahel that “Mauritania supports the option of political dialogue between the government and so-called Malian movements seeking the rights of ethnic minorities in the north”. He added that Mauritania and Algeria shared a common vision about the situation in Mali. Mauritania had acted as the spearhead in the war on terror through unilateral incursions deep into Malian territory in the past, destroying bases of armed groups. But this policy of armed intervention in northern Mali was later reversed, according to journalist Eby Ould Zidane.
“The government of Ould Abdel Aziz had launched a war on al Qaeda assuming that they were just a pack of three hundred or so criminals. Yet, the data, the unsuccessful confrontation, and the developments of the security situation in northern Mali have proved them wrong,” he said.
“This has become even clearer as al-Qaeda obtained advanced weapons following the fall of Kadhafi, and Mauritania’s strategic ally, the government of Mali, fell along with the collapse of the Malian army in the north,” Ould Zidane added. “All of these factors made Ould Abdel Aziz rethink his options carefully before venturing into a new war against terrorists. Further, politicians representing the internal front were not comfortable with military intervention.”
A number of senior Algerian security officials accompanied Messahel on the trip, including the secretary-general of the defence ministry and several other generals.
The delegation met with Mauritanian security officials, including the Chief of Staff of the Mauritanian Armed Forces, Gen. Mohamed Ould Cheikh Mohamed Ahmed and some senior Mauritanian army officers.