29 October 2012

North Africa: U.S. State Dept. Official On Clinton's Meetings in Algeria

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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

BACKGROUND BRIEFING

Background Briefing with a Senior State Department Official, Embassy Algiers, Algeria

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So they met first for about 90 minutes, and then we went into another almost two-hour lunch, I guess. Virtually the entire meeting portion focused on our counterterrorism cooperation and Mali, and they agreed that we need to now work together to build on our existing strong U.S.-Algerian counterterrorism cooperation to work together against the problems that are being exported from Mali and to help Bamako and ECOWAS with the AU and the UN support as well deal with the security threats inside of Mali. The Secretary made reference a number of times to the regional leadership Algeria displays in counterterrorism.

The second point was they agreed that we need to ensure that the political process within Mali addresses the legitimate grievances of the moderate faction of the Tuaregs so that they see their future as lying within a democratic, unitary Mali and to reduce the space for extremists to act.

The President talked quite a bit about the role that Algeria has historically tried to play to facilitate dialogue between the Tuaregs and Bamako, and he was quite generous in sharing his perspective on the situation in Northern Mali, the dynamics that the extremists are trying to use to exploit the situation. And the Secretary underscored in the context of that that it's very clear that a political process and our counterterrorism efforts in Mali need to work in parallel and be mutually reinforcing.

In terms of other issues, both in the meeting and then following on at lunch, and then the Secretary had a brief tete-a-tete with the President between, she thanked him for the very strong security support that we had for our Embassy around September 11th and afterwards. Algeria was another place where extremists tried to stir up trouble against our Embassy and were unsuccessful.

They also talked about the work that we do together in the Global Counterterrorism Forum and bilaterally to counter the extremist technique of kidnapping for ransom, which is one of the most prevalent means of financing terror, and its links to organized crime, to drug cartels, and the need to work on all these issues together. In that context, the Algerian side noted that they have now stood up a regular set of meetings among the five Maghreb interior ministers, the interior ministers of Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, and Tunisia, to look at these issues, the nexus between terrorism and terror financing through drugs and through trafficking, and what we can do against them.

They also obviously talked about our economic relationship. The Algerian side talked about its WTO bid and its hope for continued U.S. mentoring and support for that. And the Secretary underscored General Electric's bid for more work in the gas sector here. And they talked about internal politics here in Algeria. The Secretary commended the Algerians on their recent parliamentary elections, including the fact that a number more women came into the parliament and pointed towards the upcoming provincial elections.

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