By Hadi Fornaji.
Tripoli, 6 August 2013:
Faced with continuing cross border incursions by smugglers and terrorists, Libya and Algeria have decided to activate . . .[restrict]the Joint Commission agreed last year. Security is a major aspect of its anticipated work, although it is supposed to cover a much wider field, including political and economic collaboration.
The decision to activate the commission was taken at a meeting in the Algerian capital yesterday between the Prime Minister, Ali Zeidan, and his Algerian counterpart, Abdelmalek Sellal and the Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci.
Security is of particular concern to Algeria. Last week, Sellal called on Maghreb countries to work much closer to improve border security, saying that smuggling was now at an “alarming level”. The smuggling includes drugs and people but the most urgent issue is the movement of arms and terrorists, particularly between Mali, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia.
Algeria has been coordinating military action with Tunisia against pro-Al-Qaeda militants, said to include Libyans, who have been waging a guerilla war against the Tunisian army in the Chaambi mountains near the Algerian border. Last week, they killed eight Tunisian soldiers. The Algerian army has increased its presence on the border and Tunisian foreign Minister Othman Jarandi was due in Algiers today to discuss further cooperation.
Algeria also increased its military presence on the 900-kilometre border with Libya, following the deadly attack in January by militants on the In Amenas oil and gas facility. The Algerians claimed the attackers came from Libya, although that has been denied by the Libyan government.
The Algerian presence has now been further expanded with the deployment an top infantry brigade together with increased airborne surveillance of the Libyan border.
Last month, a vehicle, said to have crossed over from Libya and carrying arms, including anti-aircraft missiles and RPGs, was destroyed by Algerian troops in El Oued and its three occupants killed. According to reports in Algeria, the three were taking Libyan weapons to the militants in the Chaambi mountains.
Nigerien soldiers also recently captured a massive quantity of arms near the Algerian border being transported by militants. They were reported as having come from Libya.
The open border and illegal cross-border activity post a major threat to the security of the region, Zeidan was quoted by the Libyan news agency LANA as saying in Algiers.
The talks also focused on ways Algeria can provide support for Libya’s development. One hundred and sixty Libyan policemen have just finished a three-month training course in Algeria and will be starting work in Libya shortly. According to Zeidan, another batch will be sent to Algeria shortly.
The Algerian Prime Minister has been invited to Tripoli in late September or early October next to hold further talks on issues of security and other issues.