9 November 2012

Mauritania: French Military Delegation Visits Mauritania

Photo: RFI/Moussa Kaka
Members of Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa approach Timbuktu. (file photo)

Nouakchott — A top-level French military delegation wrapped up a four-day visit to Nouakchott Thursday (November 8th) that focused on terrorism and the conflict in Mali.

The delegation was led by General Bruno Clément-Bollée, head of Security and Defence Co-operation at the French foreign ministry. The French officials met Mauritanian army chiefs, as well as with Mauritanian Interior Minister Mohamed Ould Boilil.

"The talks focused on the ties of co-operation between the two countries and ways of strengthening them, especially in the military sector," according to an official statement on meetings.

The French official told reporters Thursday that his country gave Mauritania 2.6 million euros in defence assistance over the course of the last year, AFP reported. General Clement-Bollée praised "the very remarkable security leap made by Mauritania in the past two years to restructure its security forces and redefine their mission".

"The security delegation from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs arrived in Nouakchott at a time when there is a real possibility of military intervention by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to release northern Mali from the grip of armed Islamist groups," said Abdallahi Ould Ahmed, editor-in-chief of the Chouhoud newspaper.

He added that "the West, and France in particular, is very committed to this initiative, in which Mauritania would have a big part to play."

Sidati Ould Cheikh, a terrorism expert, noted that "this visit comes at a time when preparations are being made to take on the terrorist groups which are occupying northern Mali. Mauritania is directly affected by this situation."

"In addition, it emerged this week that army chiefs have declared a state of maximum alert across the entire country due to fears of terrorist attacks targeting Mauritania," Ould Cheikh added.

According to Ould Cheikh, the visit was a sign that "military action is imminent". He said that "similar visits have been made to Algeria and Mali. The goal is to work together with officials in these countries to hammer out a joint plan to deal effectively with terrorism, which is threatening the whole of the Sahel-Sahara region."

General Clément-Bollée has made several trips to Africa as part of efforts to combat terrorism and organised crime, according to Ould Cheikh. He travelled to Guinea in the middle of October, and last week he attended a meeting in Addis Ababa about security challenges in Africa.

With the threat of terrorism, Mauritania has taken a keen interest in events in Mali. In September, Foreign Minister Hamady Ould Hamady asked the international community - including the UN Security Council - to act "urgently" to address the situation in Mali.

He underlined that Mauritania was following developments in the Sahel with great concern and reaffirmed his strong commitment to Malian unity and territorial integrity.

He also expressed his hope that "the Security Council will discharge its responsibilities fully and be able to take the appropriate decisions, in consultation with the government of Mali and the neighbouring countries, in order to arrive without delay to a solution which will ensure that the Malian government can reassert its authority across the whole of the country, that peace for all Malians will be restored, and that terrorism and organised crime will be completely eradicated in the north of the country and the Sahel as a whole."

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