31 October 2012

Algeria, U.S. Hold First Strategic Dialogue

Algiers — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Algeria capped the launch of an historic initiative to formalise security and economic co-operation.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and several top ministers met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Algiers on Monday (October 29th) to discuss the situation in the Sahel and the crisis 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 after the talks.

Further consultations with regional and international partners, such as the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations, will be held "to determine the most effective approaches that we should be taking" to resolve the Mali issue, Clinton said.

Clinton's visit came ten days after the first-ever Algerian-American strategic dialogue. The historic summit, held in Washington DC, focused on strengthening co-operation between the two countries at the political, security and economic levels.

Algeria and the United States "both face the same challenges to their security", Algerian Maghreb and African Affairs Minister Abdelkader Messahel said after the dialogue concluded on October 19th.

Threats such as terrorism, organised crime and the migration phenomena "are realities that... require co-ordinated international action", he said.

Messahel pointed out that relations between Algeria and the United States have taken on "such scope and significance that boosting them, in a formalised framework, has naturally become imperative, particularly at a time when threats have expanded and factors of uncertainty have dangerously multiplied throughout the world".

"The United States will always find in Algeria a reliable and credible partner that will be able to play its part, modest as it may be, in the consolidation peace in the world," Messahel added.

According to International Relations professor Mohamed Sameem, "Clinton's visit is a sign of the American willingness to listen to the positions of the countries of the region concerning the Malian crisis."

It is clear, he added, that "Washington would not take any step without the support of these countries, led by Algeria".

"The experience gained by Algeria for years in confronting terrorist organisations, including al-Qaeda, has made it a centre of gravity in the region. Other countries are seeking to transfer this experience and implement it during the military intervention in northern Mali,' Sameem told Magharebia.

Strong security co-operation between the two countries had already been confirmed by mutual visits of official delegations, he said.

For his part, former diplomat and Communication Minister Abdul-Aziz Rahabi said that Clinton's visit serves as recognition by the US of the fact that Algeria possesses "experience and capabilities" in the fight against terrorism.

The strategic dialogue in itself reflects the "special relationship" between Algeria and Washington, Rahabi added.

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