By Hadi Fornaji,
Tunis, 29 September 2014:
Algeria is looking to the possibility of erecting an electronic fence along Libya border because . . .[restrict]of concerns about the movement of terrorists and arms from Libya.
According to the Algerian daily, El Mihwar, a top-level Algerian army security meeting last week called for the erection of a fence all the way from near Ghadames to the town of Djanet near the southwest Libyan border town Ghat.
The fence would include trenches.
The Algerian Air Force has already been put on a state of alert along the border and told that any unauthorised entry of vehicles from Libya should be regarded as a hostile act and be attacked.
Algeria’s concerns about the movement of terrorists, as well as about people trafficking and drugs smuggling dates back to the early post-revolution period when arms smuggled from Libya started to flow into the country.
Despite Libyan denials, Algeria continues to insist that the Islamist militants led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar who seized the In Amenas oil and gas facility at the beginning of last year had crossed over from Libya. Sixty-nine people died in the incident, including 29 of the attackers.
Continuing fears that Libya could become a regional hub for Islamist militants has also seen the Algerian authorities increase their own efforts to promote Libyan dialogue in recent weeks.
There has been a flurry of Libya-focussed activity in Algiers, including talks on the issue with visiting French Chief of Defence Staff, General Pierre de Villiers, culminating in the announcement by Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra at the UN in New York last week that foreign military intervention in Libya had to be opposed. It would not work, he said. Moreover, he added, there would be a meeting in Algeria in October of the various Libyan protagonists, the aim being to promote dialogue.
The meeting is also to include representatives of neighbouring countries.
The Algerian initiative appears to differ from the current UNSMIL meeting in Ghadames in that it aims is to have wider participation. The Ghadames talks involve only members of the House of Representatives who have been taking part in its sessions in Tobruk and those members who have been boycotting it – although in reality the latter are closely linked to Libya Dawn forces, the rump Congress led by Nuri Abu Sahmain, and the Omar Al-Hassi adminisation which it appointed.
No date has been set as yet for the Algeria meeting, although it has been reported in Algeria that a Libyan delegation will head there during the first week of October to prepare for talks.
Meanwhile there has been a series of denials about who has or has not been invited. Mohamed Sawan, leader of the Justice and Construction Party, said on his Facebook page that he had not received an invite. So too did former Qaddafi era-UN ambassador Abdel-Rahman Shalgam. Since then, accusations by Libyan revolutionaries that the Algerian efforts are an attempt to rehabilitate Qaddafi-era politicians appear to have prompted a response from Algerian officials who were quoted yesterday saying that no Qaddafi regime figures would be at the meeting and that those who would take part would all be members of the House of Representatives.
This, however, is precisely the same people who taking part in today’s Ghadames talks – which has resulted in questions now being asked whether the Algerian meeting will achieve anything or even take place. One of the raft of special envoys on Libya appointed by various governments and organisations in recent months yesterday told the Libya Herald that he did not think that it would occur.
Nonethless, Algeria’s efforts are being publicly supported by the US and the EU. Last Thursday, Italian Special Adviser Giuseppe Buccino Grimaldi, who is also Rome’s ambassador in Tripoli, said that Italy “supports Algeria’s initiative” for a peaceful solution in Libya. [/restrict]