Mauritania, Niger sign defence pact
By Bakari Gueye in Nouakchott for Magharebia – 21/08/2013
Mauritania and Niger signed a military co-operation agreement in Nouakchott on Tuesday (August 20th).
Nigerien Foreign Minister Mohamed Bazoum signed the accord after the first Mauritania-Niger Joint Commission session, AFP reported. Bazoum also met Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz during the two-day conference.
"Mauritania and Niger are two brother countries united by a strong fabric of historical, cultural, sociological, geographical and security relations," Mauritanian Foreign Minister Hamady Ould Hamady said. "Our two countries indeed share a common destiny at three levels, sub-regional, regional and international."
He noted that both countries have worked together with Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Libya, Chad and Algeria since 2010 as part of the Joint Military Staff Committee of the Sahel Region (CEMOC).
Mauritania's top diplomat also said the two sides discussed the Mali crisis, praising the French and African intervention.
"This intervention broke the criminal aggression of terrorist gangs, destroyed their infrastructure and restored the sovereignty of Mali over its entire territory," he said.
Niger already has troops in Mali as part of the UN peacekeeping mission and Mauritania could send up to 1,800 men by the end of the year.
"This perfect agreement and harmony between the two countries on all issues related to security and development in our region will be strengthened during our meetings within the joint commission," Ould Hamady added. "It will constitute the main framework for the consolidation and extension of bilateral co-operation that we are invited to bring up to the excellent level of political relations, brotherhood and friendship that bind, so fortunately, our two leaders."
For his part, the Nigerien foreign minister said he welcomed "the clearly visible willingness" of both sides to further strengthen long-standing ties.
"The values of religion and civilisation that our two peoples have in common, as well as our faith in the future of relations between our two countries are a strong base from which to respond to the expectations of peace, democracy, freedom and development of our two fraternal peoples," Bazoum added.
The Nigerien minister also praised "the major efforts by the two countries in managing the uncertainty related to the phenomenon of terrorism in the Sahel, especially the crisis in the sisterly country of Mali, as well as the efforts of countries of the region to help Mali exit the dangerous situation it experiences".
Journalist Jidou Ould Sidi noted that "Niger and Mauritania are both faced with a common enemy with the threat of terrorism."
"Niger and Mauritania are two countries that are now facing the consequences of the war against terrorist groups in northern Mali, on their borders. Western hostages have been previously abducted by groups affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb group (AQIM) in the territories of both countries," he explained.
Niger was the target of a major terrorist attack last May that killed dozens. An al-Qaeda splinter group led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar later claimed credit for the bombings in Arlit and Agadez.
For terror expert Sidati Ould Cheikh, "the two countries have already achieved good results in the context of security co-operation and agreed to strengthen co-operation in order to prevent and fight more effectively against transnational organised crime in all its forms, especially terrorism, illicit trafficking of arms, drugs, human trafficking, kidnapping, hostage-taking and money laundering."
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