18 March 2013

Western Sahara: International Summit Addresses Sahel Security

Nouakchott — Mauritania on Sunday (March 17th) hosted several foreign ministers for a meeting on Sahel security.

Representatives from the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU), and the United Nations (UN) examined ways of boosting security co-operation and implementing the African plan for peace in the Sahel-Sahara region.

The foreign ministers from Mauritania, Algeria and Libya, as well as a dozen West African states participated in the Nouakchott meeting.

During their morning session, experts discussed ways to help the International Mission of Support in Mali (MISMA) accomplish its mandate of fighting terrorism through better control of the borders, information exchange, and logistical support, AFP reported.

The purpose of the meeting was to assess "the military campaign conducted by French and African armies and to consult each other on monitoring requirements" as part of efforts made by the UN to mobilise peacekeeping forces, Mauritanian Foreign Affairs Minister Hamadi Ould Hamadi said.

"Mauritania will spare no effort in supporting its brother nation of Mali and assisting it in its efforts to guarantee its stability and unity. Mauritania is currently hosting tens of thousands of Malian refugees," he added.

In their final statement, participants welcomed the latest developments in Mali, which included the liberation of major northern Malian cities by joint French-Malian troops with Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) support.

The Sahel-Sahara region still faces serious security challenges including terrorism, cross-border crime and the proliferation of weapons, participants stated, affirming their determination to make renewed efforts to address these challenges.

"Thanks to the support of the international community, and Mali's neighbours in particular, considerable progress has been made in the gradual restoration of institutional order in Mali," said Malian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Overseas Malians Tieman Coulibaly.

"Today sees a regular meeting of the National Assembly, the formation of a consensus government which has drawn up a roadmap for the presidential elections and the creation of a dialogue and reconciliation committee," he added.

He noted that Mali's liberation was on track and that the country was "counting on the support of all parties to work hand in hand to ensure that the legal time-limits for all electoral consultations were adhered to".

Said Djinnit, the special envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Central Africa, underlined "the efforts of the United Nations to transform" MISMA "into a peacekeeping force".

"This meeting... has brought together several states, including representatives of the permanent members of the UN Peace Council with the aim of planning operational measures and launching a series of consultations and security agreements to achieve peace and security in the region," AU Peace and Security Council Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra said.

The participants agreed to broaden their co-operation in monitoring and responding to security developments in the Sahel-Sahara region.

"The meeting did what it set out to do in terms of the three goals set out in the AU memorandum in relation to boosting co-operation... information-sharing and effective border control," Mauritanian Foreign Affairs Minister Hamadi Ould Hamadi said.

"The recommendations made by the participants are an appropriate response to the challenges that we face," he added.

The UN peacekeeping force should start replacing French troops starting in April. The UN contingent could include 10,000 troops.

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