By Walid Ramzi
The latest round of security talks between Algeria and the UK focused on Libya weapons proliferation, AQIM activity and ransom payments.
“We were specifically looking at the threat from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the implications of the Libyan crisis in terms of arms proliferation and the uncontrolled movement of armed elements that endanger peace and security in the sub-region,” Algerian presidential advisor Kamel Rezzag-Bara said Tuesday (October 25th) in Algiers.
The official met with Major General Robin Searby, the UK’s counter-terrorism chief for North Africa and the Sahel, for the third session of the joint Algeria-UK counter-terrorism committee. The two-day meeting was part of preparations for the international Sahel security summit next month in Algiers.
Searby lauded Algeria’s “important” role in combating terrorism and described talks with Rezzag-Bara as “very constructive”. The two countries enjoy a “similarity of views” on security matters, including the need to criminalise ransom payments and co-ordinate efforts to counter al-Qaeda in the Sahel, he added.
The United Kingdom pledged to back Algeria’s efforts to ensure security in the Sahel-Saharan region by providing technical and advisory support in any field pertaining to counter-terror fight.
“The threat posed by al-Qaeda against the countries of the region is big and serious,” Searby said. Algeria’s experience in battling terrorism can help confront the threat in the region, he added.
The session of the contact group came at a “difficult” time, Rezzag-Bara said, when the scope of threats and transformations in the region require “regular consultations and consultative work”. The meeting allowed the two parties to exchange information on the progress of counter-terror co-operation and its future.
“We reviewed the evolution of the AQIM threat in the region and the ramifications of the Libyan crisis with regard to the spread of weapons of all kinds and movement of armed elements that may threaten international peace and security in the region,” Rezzag-Bara said.
The circulation of weapons originating from Libya remains a point of concern for Algerian authorities. The security situation is “worrisome”, Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci told French weekly Paris Match. Algeria is working with other Sahel states to address the possible implications of the Libya unrest on regional stability.
“It took Algeria many years to get rid of terrorism and achieve stability on the home front,” the minister said. He called for “strong international co-operation” in order to uncover Libyan weapons, especially land-air missiles that may have fallen into the hands of terrorist groups.
Searby echoed those concerns, vowing that the UK would help the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) to control arms.
“We are as much concerned as the Sahel countries, about the uncontrolled circulation of arms from Libya,” he said. “The proliferation of weapons threatens the stability of the entire region and we must act together to determine the origin of these weapons and destroy them. They are a danger both to Libya and the neighbouring countries.”
Furthermore, the two countries raised the issue of the possibility of radical Islamist groups coming to power in Libya and its impact on the region. Searby said that Libyan interim authorities had pledged to prevent Libya from turning into a source for strengthening terrorist groups in the Sahel.