Ghadames, Libya: The prime ministers of Libya, Algeria and Tunisia decided on Saturday to reinforce border security and join forces tackling regional challenges including terrorism, arms trafficking and organized crime.
The decision was taken by Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal and Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali during a meeting in the southern Libyan oasis of Ghadames.
They pledged in an 11-point plan to “create common border checkpoints and intensify cooperation in the security sphere through joint patrols,” and vowed as well to tackle organized crime and terrorism.
The premiers also addressed the crisis in Mali, which shares a border with Algeria and where troops are poised to reclaim a key town from Islamists threatening to advance on the capital after France sent in its air force.
“It is necessary to find a political solution to this crisis by fostering dialogue between the different parties in Mali to preserve the sovereignty and unity of its territory,” they said in a joint statement.
The Libyan prime minister told journalists the “situation in Mali has made it necessary for us to meet in order to prevent and tackle its consequences.”
It requires close “coordination between our military and intelligence services to prevent anything that might affect our security, the movement of persons, arms and drugs trafficking, terrorism and human trafficking,” he said.
Libyan authorities in December decided to close the country’s borders with Algeria, Niger, Chad and Sudan, decreeing the oil-rich south a military zone, in a move seen by analysts as a response to the crisis in Mali.
Although Libya does not share borders with Mali it has been the worst affected by the spillover of weapons and fighters, both Tuareg and Islamist, that accompanied the 2011 uprising that ousted dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
With West African governments now pushing for intervention to evict the jihadists from northern Mali, Libya and its neighbors, particularly Algeria, fear the fighters and weapons will stream back north across the Sahara.