Algiers — Algeria says it stands behind Malian authorities in their fight against terrorism.
Malian Prime Minister Diango Cissoko wrapped up a two day visit to Algeria on Monday (January 14th), where he secured Algeria's support in the battle against al-Qaeda-linked Islamists.
The Malian prime minister met with his Algerian counterpart, as well as with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Cissoko headed a high-ranking delegation comprising Territorial Administration Minister Colonel Moussa Sinko Coulibaly and Transport Minister Abdoulaye Koumaré.
"We've discussed the latest developments of crisis in Mali, and we have identical views on how to manage this crisis," Cissoko said after talks with Bouteflika. He confirmed the two countries' keenness on "looking for the necessary means to enhance our co-operation to eradicate terrorism and organised crime, which pose the biggest threat to Sahel's security and stability".
The visit coincided with the start of the French military operation to support the Malian army in recovering the northern part of the country, which is controlled by Islamist groups allied with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
During the talks, the two sides discussed securing the joint border, repercussions of the war on the region, necessary capabilities to enhance co-operation between field countries and non-regional partners to eradicate terrorism and organised crime in the Sahel.
Cissoko praised Algeria's efforts to solve the crisis in Mali "and to stand along it in this critical juncture of its history". He confirmed that relations between the two countries would remain strong, and revealed that he officially invited Algeria's Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal to pay a friendly and official visit to Mali as soon as possible.
Also on Monday, Algerian officials notified their Malian counterparts of their intent to close the border.
"We have informed the Malian side of the measures taken to close the border, which has already been secured since the recent events unfolded in Mali," Algerian foreign ministry spokesman Amar Belani said.
At the beginning of the military operation, Algeria voiced its support for the central government in Mali in the on-going war against the armed groups that control northern Mali.
A statement issued by Belani on Saturday said that Algeria "strongly condemns the attacks that were launched by terrorist groups in Mopti", describing it as "new aggression".
Belani said that Algeria had "unequivocal support for the Malian transitional authorities, with whom it maintains multifaceted relations, including in the military sphere".
The statement noted that "Algeria has strongly invited all rebel groups that respect Mali's territorial integrity and have nothing to do with terrorism to start looking for a political solution."
In response to a question on Algeria's position on the French intervention in Mali, Belani said, "It must be clearly stated that Mali has requested, with its full sovereignty, friendly countries to help it enhance its national counter-terrorist capabilities."
For their part, the French authorities said they were in contact with Algeria about the conditions in Mali. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Sunday that "Algeria allowed French fighters to cross its airspace en route to hit targets of Islamist groups in northern Mali; something that enabled us to stop their advance towards the south."
"Algeria has allowed us to fly over its soil unconditionally," Fabius said in responding to a question from LCI news channel. "We're working with the Algerians, and proceeding with talks."
Meanwhile, El Khabar cited a security source Tuesday as saying that "the Algerian aircraft that are flying in Algerian airspace are operating based on a previous Malian-Algerian-French military agreement that includes the specification of a military operational sphere."
The paper said that Algeria's approval to allow French fighter planes to fly over certain areas of the desert was based on a military counter-terrorism agreement that linked Algeria to Mauritania, Mali and Niger.