The US will continue to seek a solution to the ongoing conflict in Mali, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday.
Clinton made the comment in Algeria, where she is on the first part of an international tour that will later lead her to the Balkans.
Following a meeting with Algeria’s President Bouteflika, Clinton said that besides reviewing the strong bilateral relations between Algeria and the U.S., they also had an in-depth discussion of the region, particularly the situation in Mali.
“I very much appreciated the President’s analysis, based on his long experience, as to the many complicated factors that have to be addressed to deal with the internal insecurity in Mali and the terrorist and drug trafficking threat that is posed to the region and beyond.” Clinton said, adding that they “agreed to continue with in-depth expert discussions, to work together bilaterally and with the region – along with the United Nations, and the African Union, and ECOWAS – to determine the most effective approaches that we should be taking.”
Since January, several insurgent groups have been fighting against the Malian government for independence or greater autonomy for northern Mali (an area known as Azawad).
The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), an organization fighting to make Azawad an independent homeland for the Tuareg people, took control of the region by April. The MNLA were initially backed by the Islamist group Ansar Dine. However, after the Malian military were driven from Azawad, Ansar Dine began imposing strict Sharia law. Since then, the MNLA has been fighting against Ansar Dine and another Islamist group called the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA), a splinter group of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Following Monday’s meeting in Algeria, Clinton will travel to the Balkans “to demonstrate the enduring U.S. interest, commitment and support for its future in the European and Euro-Atlantic community,” according to the State Department.
Clinton will be joined by Baroness Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Kosovo.
In Sarajevo, the Secretary and High Representative Ashton will underline the urgent need for party leaders to serve the interests of the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina and accomplish necessary reforms, and will stress the immutability of the international community’s commitment to the Dayton Peace Accords.
In both Belgrade and Pristina, in addition to discussing issues of bilateral interest, Secretary Clinton and High Representative Ashton will reiterate U.S.-EU resolve for Serbia and Kosovo to build on previous agreements and advance their dialogue, as well as to encourage concrete steps that will allow those countries to progress on their respective paths to EU membership.
In Tirana, Clinton is scheduled to highlight solidarity with NATO ally Albania and help mark the 100th anniversary of Albanian independence with an address to the Parliament, while marking the critical need for greater political cooperation and the rule of law.
In Zagreb, Secretary Clinton will discuss Croatia’s role as a NATO ally, its upcoming entry to the European Union in 2013, and its economic situation.