Mali, Algeria discuss crisis response
By Walid Ramzi for Magharebia in Algiers – 15/06/12
Interim Malian Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra met with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algiers on Wednesday (June 13th) to discuss the crisis in the Sahel.
Diarra's discussions with Algerian officials included the unilateral declaration of an independent state for Azawad, issued by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), as well as other issues.
Mali reportedly requested that Algerian authorities mobilise mediation efforts between Bamako and the Touaregs, and has shown a willingness to discuss all demands made by the rebels in the framework of Mali's territorial integrity.
During his two-day visit, the Malian premier briefed top Algerian officials on the latest developments in his country and the measures that Bamako plans to re-establish its territorial integrity.
"In addition to being a neighbouring country, Algeria is also a brotherly and friendly country, and will remain as such forever," Diarra said.
"In view of what's going on in Mali right now, the first initiative that the Malian government will undertake is to communicate with neighbours, friends and brothers to reach effective solutions for the crises we're currently facing, the minister said.
Directly after his meetings in Algiers, the Malian prime minister travelled to Paris to meet Mali's interim President Dioncounda Traore and brief him on the results of his talks. President Traore is receiving medical treatment in Paris after he was attacked by angry protesters at the Presidential Palace in Bamako last month.
The Algerian foreign ministry declined to provide any details on issues discussed in meetings between Mali's prime minister and Algerian officials, only saying that the visit was "part of regular consultations between the two countries".
However, reports in Algerian media indicated that the Malian prime minister's visit to Algiers came to request Algeria's mediation with Azawad tribes and to consult with it on how to repair relations with those who are calling for independence.
Algeria's Echorouk daily said that the file of Algerian diplomats who were kidnapped in Gao last April was among the issues that were discussed. The newspaper cited a diplomatic source as saying that the Malian prime minister promised that his country's authorities would do their best to free the Algerian diplomats.
The newspaper added that the Malian prime minister officially requested Algeria's mediation with Azawad tribes to prevent the independence of the breakaway Touareg state.
Diarra expressed his country's willingness to negotiate with Azawad about their demands and to even discuss the possibility of sharing power, but in the framework of his country's territorial integrity.
Meanwhile, the officials of the reserve force of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held their first meeting Tuesday in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to discuss ways to deploy the joint military forces to Mali.
Ivory Coast's Chief of Staff General Soumaila Bakayoko said that the heads of ECOWAS states and governments threatened to use force after the rebel groups took control of northern Mali.
However, Algeria opposes military intervention in Mali and Algerian presidential advisor for security affairs Kamel Rezzag-Bara recently called for intensifying international mediation efforts to deal with the situation.
In addition, Algerian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Amar Belani confirmed June 8th that Algeria's position on Mali was firm and remained concerned with stability, constitutional legitimacy, and Malian territorial integrity.
"As to solutions, Algeria backs a peaceful solution between the Malian government and rebels in the north," Belani added. "This can only be achieved through dialogue, which must focus on combating terrorism and organised crime for the safety of region."
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