Magharebia, by Nazim Fethi (Agiers, June 10, 2012) – Maghreb foreign ministers on Monday (July 9th) wrapped up two days of talks in Algiers with a plan to adopt a common approach to security threats. “Terrorism and organised crime…are threats to peace in the Maghreb, Africa and the Mediterranean,” the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) foreign ministers’ council said in a final declaration.
UMA member states Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania and Libya called for stepped-up security co-operation at the regional and international levels.
“What is important is that for the first time, foreign ministers have met to mull a common security strategy,” said Abdelkader Messahel, the Algerian minister in charge of African and Maghreb affairs. ”We must respond to the events in the Maghreb,” Messahel said. “There have been upheavals that have had repercussion on security.”
Libyan Foreign Minister Ashour Bin Khayal reiterated the desire of the new Libyan authorities to see “criminals who have found refuge in other countries of the Maghreb” extradited to Libya. He welcomed the Tunisian government’s decision to hand over former Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Ali Al-Mahmoudi.
For his part, Moroccan Foreign Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani underlined that there was a “Maghreb-wide consensus” on the need for a political solution to the Malian crisis.
“What is happening in the north of Mali is an attempt to turn the region into another Afghanistan,” said Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem. He added that terrorist groups seek to take advantage of instability in countries where the Arab Spring has taken hold. The three sources of terrorism – arms, money and communications – must be cut, Abdessalem said.
The five countries agreed on the need to develop “specific programmes” to strengthen co-operation and co-ordination.
Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said that the circulation of arms and the growth of criminal networks have threatened the security situation in the Maghreb region. “There is a direct link between terrorist groups and criminal networks, and we cannot overlook the phenomenon of money laundering, which has become more widespread across our region and which provides support for terrorism and crime in the region by one means or another,” he said.
Medelci acknowledged that the situation in northern Mali has a direct impact on Maghreb countries. To this end, he invited his Maghreb counterparts to attend the second congress on security and development, set to take place in Niamey, Niger in the next few months. “There can be no security without development, just as there can be no development without security,” Medelci said.
Photo: AFP/Farouk Batiche