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09ALGIERS765 2009-08-23 06:43:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Algiers
Cable title:  

ALGERIAN MINSTATE SAYS TRANS-SAHARA LEADERS TO

Tags:   PREL PBTS PTER PGOV AG 
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1. (C) SUMMARY: Algerian Minister of State for Africa and
the Maghreb Abdelkader Messahel told a visiting Capstone
delegation August 14 that trans-Sahara heads of state will
meet in Bamako in early October to discuss security
cooperation and regional development. Messahel said that
Algerian President Bouteflika discussed the timing of such a
summit with Malian President Toure and Libyan leader Qadhafi,
who all agreed that early October would provide a suitable
post-Ramadan timeframe and give the new Mauritanian
administration time to prepare. Messahel said that an August
12 meeting of military chiefs of staff in southern Algeria
was a functional prelude to the heads of state summit, which
will cover security and development issues with the goal of
adopting frameworks for greater cooperation and roadmaps for
specific actions. A series of follow-up meetings to the
summit would bring together ministers of interior, defense,
and finance. The threat to the region, Messahel argued,
comes not only from terrorists but from a socio-economic
environment that allows terrorists to thrive, and it is time
for the nations of the region to "reclaim" Islam, which has
historically been moderate and tolerant, from the extremists.
Messahel also stated that Algeria has committed some USD 13
million toward aid programs in northern Mali. He was firm in
stressing that African governments needed to take
responsibility for their own security and development and
that the U.S. and other friends of the region could help with
material aid and technical assistance. The USG, he said,
could best assist Africa by supporting African-led
initiatives, such as the October summit and the AU-led
initiative to strengthen the international legal regime
against ransom payments. END SUMMARY.

HEADS OF STATE TO BAMAKO EARLY OCTOBER


--------------------------





2. (C) Minister of State for African and Maghreb Affairs
Abdelkader Messahel met the Capstone delegation of visiting
U.S. military generals and admirals August 14 on their last
day in Algiers. In a rare Friday meeting after having just
returned from Vienna for talks on the Western Sahara
(septel), Messahel, who assembled a team of military and MFA
officials for the meeting, told the Capstone group that a
summit of heads of state from the trans-Sahara region will
likely take place in the beginning of October in Bamako,
Mali. He noted that military chiefs of staff had met in the
southern Algerian city of Tamanrasset on August 12 to discuss
security cooperation. He reiterated, as we had heard in a
previous meeting (reftel) that other ministerial and
sub-ministerial gatherings were planned in the run-up to a
heads of state meeting.



3. (C) Messahel said that President Bouteflika, Malian
President Toure, and Libyan leader Qadhafi agreed that early
October would be the best timeframe for the summit to avoid
Ramadan and to give the new Mauritanian administration time
to prepare for full engagement on the issues. He said the
summit would include the leaders of Niger, Chad, Mauritania,
and Burkina Faso in addition to Algeria and Libya (but not
Tunisia and Morocco). The summit's primary objective would
be a framework for cooperation with a roadmap of specific
action items. Ministers of defense, interior, and finance
would hold a series of follow-on meetings, he said, to
implement agreements made at the summit. Messahel said that
after the heads of state summit, there would be an effort to
have a dialogue with friends and allies like the USG to
develop cooperative efforts.

THREATS TO REGIONAL SECURITY BEYOND TERRORISTS


--------------------------

-



4. (C) Messahel said that terrorists did not pose the only
threat to regional security and stability; the socio-economic
environment posed by weak governments in Mali, Niger, and
Mauritania allowed terrorism and organized crime, including
drug and human trafficking, to thrive in a region that
stretched from the Atlantic to the Red Sea. He also listed
poverty and poor health conditions as threats in the region

ALGIERS 00000765 002.2 OF 003


in addition to terrorism. Messahel affirmed that the time
was right for regional heads of state to create a synergy to
combat these threats by building capacity within each nation
and reestablishing confidence and trust among themselves. He
said that the Malians, for example, agreed at the Tamanrasset
meeting to take a more aggressive role in pursuing terrorists
and that Algeria has already obligated some USD 13 million
toward development projects in northern Mali for improved
health care and to provide job training to former Tuareg
rebels. He also said it was time for the countries of the
region to reclaim Islam from extremists, noting that the
Islam prevalent throughout northwest Africa is one of
tolerance and moderation: "We don't know the salafism or
wahhabism of the Saudis," he asserted.

AFRICANS LEADING AFRICAN-BASED INITIATIVES


--------------------------





5. (C) Messahel stressed that the governments of the
region, and in Africa generally, must take primary
responsibility to combat the elements of instability in their
territories. The United States and other nations interested
in the region could best assist by providing support in the
form of materials and equipment as well as technical
assistance to complement efforts led by the Africans
themselves, he said. He highlighted the Algiers Accords of
2006 as an example of a successful regional cooperation
mechanism that helped Mali "solve" its problems with Tuareg
rebels; and now it must face the AQIM threat squarely. He
added that Algeria has told officials in Mali and Niger that
each must now take part in broader efforts to strengthen
regional security, telling them "You cannot leave it to the
United States, France, or others to do it for you. No, you
must do it." Without giving specific examples, Messahel
described past conferences and meetings on peace and security
in the region led by foreign powers as being mostly for show
with few concrete results. But, he said, Algeria is ready to
help its neighbors develop the capacity to address the
security challenges they all face.



6. (C) Messahel reiterated a call for support of Algeria's
AU-backed initiative at the UN to strengthen the
international legal regime against ransom payments.
Presidential counter-terrorism advisor Kamel Rezzag Bara gave
the same message to the Capstone delegation on August 12
(septel). Messahel said it was important for European
countries in particular to recognize that paying ransoms to
kidnappers in the region facilitates terrorist activities.



7. (C) Describing Algeria's role in Africa, Messahel
suggested that the USG should consider Algeria a strategic
partner on the continent. His country's roots ran
historically and culturally in a horizontal direction along
Maghreb, Mediterranean, and Arab lines but also vertically
toward the rest of the African continent. He said Algeria is
bound by international conventions it has signed to cooperate
with its neighbors and it does so regarding intelligence and
training. He noted Algeria's responsiveness in the past to
requests for airlift support for UN and AU peacekeeping
missions but pointed out that Algeria's constitution did not
allow for the deployment of Algerian army troops on foreign
soil. He also said that Algeria maintains a "discreet"
economic relationship with other African countries and that
one percent of Algeria's GDP is dedicated to African
development. Algeria has regular meetings, what he termed a
"system of concertation", with South Africa, Ethiopia, and
Nigeria in particular. Algeria maintains close relations
with these nations and has growing economic interests across
the continent.



8. (C) Messahel could not resist taking at least one swipe
against Algeria's former colonial master. While referring to
Algeria's close involvement with the AU's creation of a North
African standby brigade, he related how his country and
Cameroon were competing to have the regional base established
on their soil. Messahel claimed that the Algerian base was
already up and running whereas the base in Cameroon had not
yet been built. Worse, he continued, the base in Cameroon
was partly French and was a key component of "France's Africa
policy." Only the Algerian base, of the two alternatives
under consideration, was "100 percent African."

ALGIERS 00000765 003.2 OF 003





9. (C) COMMENT: Messahel took the Capstone delegation
seriously enough to return from Vienna earlier than he had
originally planned and assemble a team on a Friday, Algeria's
equivalent to Sunday in the U.S., to discuss regional issues.
We believe he also saw the meeting as an opportunity to
stress the point that leaders of the trans-Sahara region are
taking it upon themselves to improve cooperation on security
and related issues. Sharing the projected timetable and
goals of the upcoming leadership summit, Messahel took pains
to stress that the nations of the Sahel must shoulder
responsibility for security in the region, and allies such as
the USG should allow them the time and political space to
build capacity, find solutions, and implement them. Algeria,
according to Messahel, recognizes the breadth of the
challenge across the Sahara and is committed to providing
development assistance in addition to intelligence
cooperation and other material support. But he was also
clear in his position that the USG and other friends of the
region could best assist Africa by supporting African-led
initiatives, like the October Bamako summit and the AU effort
on ransom payments that Algeria is spearheading, rather than
trying itself to take on Africa's counter-terrorism and
regional security challenges. End comment



10. (U) Tripoli minimize considered.

PEARCE