4 December 2012

Algeria, Tunisia Boost Ties

Algiers — Border security and economic development were at the top of the agenda during recent bilateral talks between Tunisia and Algeria.

Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali wrapped up a two-day visit to Algiers on Monday (December 3rd) with a number of co-operation agreements.

The visit focused on the joint counter-terrorism effort, consular issues and the economy. Among the agreements, Algeria and Tunisia decided to form joint committees compromising of officials from the two countries' defence and interior ministries to focus on border security and development.

Those committees will meet before the end of the year, according to Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci. Speaking at a press conference with his Tunisian counterpart, he added that governors of border areas would also take part.

"Such visits are expected to lead to new mechanisms to secure the Algerian-Tunisian border and make it an area for prosperity, growth and for strengthening ties of fraternity between the two peoples," Medelci said.

The top Algerian diplomat stressed the need to promote security co-operation in view of the "growing danger" in Sahel, noting that this would require intensifying counter-terrorism co-ordination. He also stated that security and stability "both in Maghreb and Sahel, including Mali" were among the two sides' top priorities.

For his part, Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem talked about a bilateral agreement to confront security problems in Sahel, especially in Mali, where the situation still poses "a concern for Tunisia and Algeria alike".

"We've exchanged information to confront all dangers posed by criminal groups, especially terrorist groups, that threaten our countries' and region's stability and security," he added.

Also during the visit, the Tunisian prime minister was received by Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal.

During the talks, the two sides reviewed ways to activate the Arab Maghreb Union and realise Maghreb integration. Sellal seized the opportunity to confirm Algeria's commitment to the union, saying it was "a strategic option to build a harmonious bloc based on real integration as part of a comprehensive vision to bolster its standing among provincial, regional and continental structures".

Tunisia's foreign minister said that his country was "about to hold consultations with Algeria and other member states to examine the different aspects of the summit agenda". Meanwhile, Medelci avoided discussing the issue.

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki invited leaders of Maghreb countries to a summit to revitalise the union but outstanding problems between member states have delayed the gathering, which was originally planned for last October.

However, diplomatic efforts to push Maghreb integration forward are expected to continue. Algiers is expected to receive Libya's Prime Minister Ali Zidan this month in his first foreign visit since he came to office.

In a statement to Algerian radio November 18th, Medelci denied there were differences with Morocco, and noted that the Western Sahara issue was being addressed by the United Nations.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika sent a message to Morocco's King Mohammed VI on the 57th anniversary of Morocco's independence in which he reiterated his commitment to work with him on "boosting ties of fraternity and good neighbourliness".

Meanwhile, Morocco reiterated its support for efforts to revitalise the Maghreb union during the annual MEDays forum last month in Tangier. Moroccan Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs Youssef Amrani said in the closing session that the Maghreb should be an engine for the Mediterranean.

"The future will be through building an innovative Maghreb model that overcomes political obstacles, a model that is open to its neighbours in harmony with the new political, social and economic realities, as well as with the aspirations of region's peoples," he said.

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