Magharebia (Washington DC)

11 December 2013

Libya: Algeria, Libya to Bolster Security Co-Operation

Algiers — Chaos in Libya has prompted Algerian authorities to step up security presence along the border between the two countries and strive for better co-operation against terrorist threats.

In press statements following his meeting with Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki in Paris, Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal on Saturday (December 7th) said he would visit Libya at the end of the month to discuss security co-ordination with Libyan officials.

The two held talks on the side-lines of the Élysée Summit on Peace and Security in Africa.

"It's necessary to control the security situation in the region," Sellal said. "Without stability, it's not possible to have any kind of development."

The Algerian prime minister said he discussed security issues and "problems in the region" with the Tunisian president, noting, "We don't intervene at all in Tunisia's affairs, but we support any solution in Tunisia."

He added that the Tunisian-Algerian joint committee would hold a meeting later this month, noting "there is real co-operation between the two countries".

Sellal's expected visit to Libya is the second of its type after the Ghadames summit last January between Algeria, Libya and Tunisia.

During that meeting, the three neighbours agreed to enhance security co-operation on the border, stop arms proliferation and monitor the movements of terrorist groups.

During Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan's last visit to Algeria in August, Algerian authorities expressed willingness to support the new Libya, help it in the security sector, rebuild Libya's police and army and collaborate on initiatives to control the border and combat terrorism.

Since last June, Algeria trained two batches of 120 Libyan officers each on various police techniques and criminal investigation methods.

Sellal's visit to Libya comes at a time when Algerian authorities fear heavy weapons may fall in the hands of terrorist groups that are still active in the region, especially following Mokhtar Belmokhtar's attack on the In Amenas gas facility, which was carried out by a group that entered Algerian soil through the Libyan border.

For his part, Algeria's Interior Minister Tayeb Belaiz noted that the Libyan-Algerian border was a main source of concern for Algeria.

In a statement from Ghardaia province last November, Belaiz said that the administration of Algeria's southern and eastern borders was now under the direct supervision of the Algerian army and armed forces to avert weapons smuggling and terrorist infiltration attempts.

He added that the army had seized sophisticated weapons and rockets on more than one occasion along the 1000-kilometre border.

"Libya has become a hotspot of tension posing a threat along its land borders with neighbouring countries, especially in view of the absence of government institutions," said Omar Ben Jana, an expert on security and strategic affairs.

He called on the African Union to help prevent the proliferation of weapons into neighbouring countries and assist Libya with building national institutions to control the situation there.

In her turn, Saida Benhabyles, a former minister, said that Algerian authorities had a duty to take all the measures they deemed necessary to secure the border against all safety concerns.

"The security vacuum in Libya can lead to threats affecting all regional countries because of arms proliferation and weakness of central authority," she said.

She added that Algeria's interest in developments taking place in Mali, Tunisia and Libya showed Algeria's keenness on helping its neighbours restore security, given that stability in Libya means a safer Algeria.

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