By Fidet Mansour
Fears of weapons trafficking as a result of the Libyan war have spurred deeper cross-border ties in the Sahel. Algeria is leading efforts to tackle the regional security challenges, according to Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci.
The country is waging a campaign on all fronts and at every level to “criminalise the payment of ransom to terrorist groups in return for the release of hostages”, the minister said on Monday (September 19th) at the UN Symposium on International Counter-Terrorism Co-operation. “Ransom payments are the main source of finance for terrorist groups active in the Sahel.”
The country will continue its efforts to make the region a haven of peace and security, Medelci vowed. These efforts include financial assistance for Sahel states in their development projects.
“Algeria intends to support growth in the border regions whose people, who are very poor, often prove easy prey for terrorist groups,” international relations expert Anouar Hamadi told Magharebia.
He underlined that Algeria opposed “foreign military presence in the region” but supported the idea of financial assistance. At the beginning of the year, Algeria granted 10 million dollars in aid to Mali for projects to develop water supplies and agriculture.
The two countries on September 13th signed eight agreements at the 11th Algeria-Mali Joint Commission. They cover cross-border co-operation, energy, technology, information and communication, health, trade and agriculture.
According to the Algerian foreign ministry, Mali and Algeria “have maintained fraternal relations of friendship, solidarity and good neighbourliness” and will “continue their dialogue on regional and international issues of common interest”.
“The two countries will be working together for the foreseeable future to find answers to the issues of security and development,” Malian Foreign Minister Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga said. “The new life breathed into Algerian-Malian relations over the last few months has enabled us to look again at the bilateral agreements and put in place a whole raft of measures to assist in the rebirth of the region.”
All the countries in the region, including Libya, must collaborate to make the Sahel “a place of progress and economic development”, according to Medelci.
“Libya is responsible for the circulation of weapons within its borders. Each of the other countries, such as Mali, Niger and Algeria are also responsible for security on their territory,” he said. “The weapons must be recovered to prevent them falling into the hands of those with less honourable intentions.”
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), which has supported Libyan rebels through air strikes, must also help establish peace and security in the country, Medelci stressed.
Hundreds of terrorists remain active in the Sahel-Saharan region, according to Algeria’s chief diplomat, but only dozens constitute the nucleus of these groups.