Magharebia (Washington DC)

North Africa: Maghreb States to Ramp Up Border Security

Libya, Algeria and Tunisia on Saturday (January 12th) agreed to adopt a raft of new border patrol measures to counter arms struggling and repel terrorists.

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan welcomed his counterparts Hamadi Jebali of Tunisia and Abdelmalek Sellal of Algeria in the border city of Ghadames. The interior, defence and foreign ministers also attended the summit, along with Tunisian Army Chief of Staff Rachid Ammar.

"This is a security meeting par excellence and also a political and brotherly meeting," Zidan said. "We have joint, threatened borders and we're moving to the direction of Morocco and Mauritania."

"We are determined to form the Arab Maghreb Union with objective and steady steps," the Libyan premier added. "We're on the lookout for all those who want to promote their ideas by force, and for all those who want to engage in arms, drugs and human trafficking."

He called on the Libyan people in the border areas to co-operate and be "the best informants" for the sake of the country.

The three sides decided to adopt an integrated, preemptive and coordinated approach as part of a comprehensive security strategy. They agreed to set up follow-up and communications mechanisms between the interior ministers to deal with any security breaches and form taskforces to chart a shared vision of security in the region.

In addition, the parties will also share information on land paths used by terror groups, drugs and arms smugglers and illegal immigration networks.

"The Arab and African countries are facing barbarian terrorism, organised crime and money laundering," Sellal commented, describing the meeting as "historic".

"We agreed today to co-ordinate our efforts between all agencies concerned on the border and to use all resources among the three countries," the Algerian PM told reporters after the meeting. "Don't think that this is an easy thing, especially with the issues of Mali and Somalia and other areas in the region."

To follow up on the implementation of decisions taken at the summit, the parties agreed to create a committee that would convene on a regular basis and make recommendations to the heads of three governments.

They also look to enhance popular relations and civil society initiatives to encourage cultural, sports and social exchanges along the joint border areas. Furthermore, the new approach bets on development and governance efforts involving the private sector and civil society organisations.

The Ghadames meeting "is a clear message showing the will to repel anyone who wants to threaten our peoples' security and development", according to Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali.

The Libyan premier echoed that message.

"We won't allow anyone to use our land to engage in terrorist activities or use our borders to deal in arms, smuggle drugs or engage in illegal immigration," Zidan vowed.

The new initiatives received positive responses from Tunisians who hope that the countries will unite around common security threats.

"The past experiences of these countries, which were based on unilateral confrontation, have proven to be a total failure," said Dia Eddine al-Fitouri, a faculty of science student.

"Enhanced regional security co-operation has become an urgent need today in view of political turmoil in the region."

Housewife Jamila Skandarani said, "Union means strength, especially at the current time which requires co-operation and rapprochement. If this security co-operation is realised, it will protect our land and peoples against saboteurs."

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