By Michel Cousins.
Tripoli, 8 December:
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan is due to visit Algeria on Sunday. It will be his first official visit abroad since taking office. A ministerial delegation is expected to accompany him but no details have been announced as to its composition.
The visit is seen as partly linked to that earlier this week to Algiers by Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali and the upcoming Arab Maghreb Summit which is to take place in Tunis before the end of the year although, as yet, no date has been announced.
Algeria is particularly concerned about stability in Libya and in ensuring that Libyan arms do not fall into the hands of Algerian militants. There have been regular reports in the Algerian press of Libya weapons being seized in Algeria and Algerian militants being trained in Libya. In their discussions earlier this week, Jebali and Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said they were “determined” to see stability in Libya as well the rebuilding of its legal institutions and its redevelopment — although they did not specify how they expected to achieve this.
Relations between Libya and Algeria have been distinctly cool since the revolution because of Algeria’s belated recognition of it and its willingness to offer sanctuary to Qaddafi regime figures including Qaddafi’s wife Safia, daughter Aisha and sons Mohammed and Hanibal. Its rejection of Libyan requests to extradite them together with continuing pro-Qaddafi sentiments in the local media and on the football terraces whenever Libya is playing Algeria have fuelled the Libyan belief that sympathy for the Qaddafi regime is alive and kicking in Algeria.
In May, there was anger in Tripoli after the then Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia described the Arab Spring as a disaster.
However, earlier this year there were attempts to bridge the divide following the meeting of foreign ministers from the five-nation Arab Maghreb Union in the Moroccan capital, Rabat.
In March, Algerian foreign Minister Mourad Medelci was in Tripoli for talks on border security. During his visit he offered Libya Algerian help to “build the army and police”. This was followed by a visit to Algiers by the then Interior Minister Fawzi Abdelal to discus such ideas and border security. The following month, the then NTC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil went to Algeria for a two-day official visit . There was much talk during the visit of a new era in relations, but apart from an agreement to recommence security cooperation, nothing much has happened.
Zeidan’s visit is seen as now giving the relationship a new impetus.