By Fidet Mansour in Algiers and Jemal Oumar
Algeria and Mauritania vowed to step up co-operation on a number of fronts, from trade and security to the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), following a four-day visit to Algiers by Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.
In a joint statement issued December 13th with his Algerian counterpart Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Ould Abdel Aziz pledged to reinforce “the concept of economic integration between Maghreb countries through the activation of Arab Maghreb Union structures and bodies”.
The statement also expressed the two countries’ satisfaction with the level of security co-operation between them, other Sahel countries and international partners concerned with combating terrorism and transnational organised crime. The two leaders also described their security collaboration as “very positive and conclusive” in the fight against al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and other regional threats.
To this end, they reiterated their “firm resolve to step up their efforts to strengthen security and stability in the Sahel region”, adding that they had a “deep conviction” that the fight terrorism and organised crime would be helped by stronger international co-operation.
The presidential remarks came the same day as Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci told state-owned Russia Today that “the Arab Spring should encourage us to co-operate with all countries in the region, Morocco included”.
“Our relationship with Morocco generally rises above the situation currently being experienced by the region,” the chief Algerian diplomat said. “Our relationship with Morocco is the very foundation of our horizontal and strategic policies, even though the problems of the past few years have slowed down co-operation between our countries.”
Meanwhile, Algeria and Mauritania signed agreements on December 11th covering the abolition of double taxation by the two countries and joint commitments on occupational health and professional insurance involving the National Institute for the Prevention of Professional Risks in Algiers and the National Bureau for Occupational Health in Mauritania.
The two countries hailed the progress made through bilateral co-operation, and invited public and private enterprises, along with economic players in the two countries, “to breathe new life into economic and trading relations, and to guarantee a favourable climate for partnership and investment projects, particularly in the fields of energy and mining, infrastructure, agriculture and fishing”.
Mauritanian political analyst Dr Hussain Ould Medou said the call for a Maghreb Union was no longer a local demand. He cited recent statements by former European Commission President Romani Prodi urging the UMA’s revival and support for a free trade zone.
For his part, Mohamed Salem Ould Dah, director of the Arab-African Centre for Information and Development, said the visit by Ould Abdel Aziz was “part of an Algerian strategic vision through which it aims to re-arrange bilateral relations between Maghreb countries”.
“We can read Ould Abdel Aziz’s visit to Algiers in this framework as part of efforts to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries, especially as they are linked by security relations to combat terrorism,” Ould Dah added.
Journalist Sidi Mohammed Ould al-Khalifa cited stepped up economic ties between the two neighbours, including plans for a road between Algiers and Nouakchott. Ould al-Khalifa also noted security agreements that “boost the strategic convergence between the two countries in the counter-terrorism field by depending on their own capabilities”.