Algeria's Relationship With NATO Begins to Thaw After Long Chill

Algeria's relationship with NATO took a major hit after the multinational organization intervened in Libya without consulting Algeria, writes Atef Kadadra. But Algeria recently participated in regional discussions, indicating that the two are starting to get along again.

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mediterranean security cooperation, algerian relations with nato, dirk branglman, snmcmg2, passex, nato, algerian foreign policy

Jul 8, 2012

Algeria's relationship with NATO is going through a cold period, which is affecting their 12 year-long “Mediterranean dialogue.'' Despite last year’s visit by the NATO assistant secretary-general for political affairs and security policy, and  the participation of Algerian delegations in regular NATO meetings, the last one in April, a ''disagreement'' emerged between the two parties ever since NATO forces intervened in Libya.

In the last few months, Algeria has been settling for dialogue within the G5+5, a group which includes five countries from the southwest of the Mediterranean and five counterparts from the north. This comes at the expense of Algeria's “chilled” relationship with NATO. It should be mentioned Algerian officials do not openly declare the depth of the differences that taint their views of the nature of NATO’s tasks. However, political and military leaders are anxious about the results of the dialogue, which was started by Algeria with the NATO over ten years ago.

Even still, official Algerian sources told El-Khabar that they do not like to say that Algeria is in a state of "dispute" with NATO. However, they admit that the relationship has been chilled because NATO did not consult Algeria regarding its operations in Libya during the Libyan revolution against Muammar Gaddafi. According to an Algerian assessment of the results of the dialogue with NATO, the relationship it had with the organization did not enable Algeria to have a say in NATO policies. Algeria, along with a number of other Mediterranean countries, are only included in the ''dialogue countries" category for NATO.

Algeria is currently maintaining its cooperation with the organization at the lowest levels. The last meeting it participated in was on April 23, 2012 at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, where "regional cooperation” was discussed. Regarding their cold relationship and its effects on security cooperation, the same sources said, ''It is not the first of its kind. In fact, cooperation was already cut off [between Algeria and NATO] following the Israeli assault on Gaza in December 2008.” This is despite last year’s visit to Algeria by Dirk Branglman, NATO's Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy, and the talks he held with Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci. The visit did not manage to overcome the two parties’ cold relationship regarding  security cooperation.

For its part, the Ministry of National Defense does not have a short-term joint program with NATO forces. Military cooperation usually involves navy exercises, and the last joint operations are believed to have been conducted three years ago. In that exercise,  five NATO anti-mine ships docked at the port of Algiers. That was the seventh stop for Standing NATO Mine Counter Measures Group 2 (SNMCMG2) in its mission as a permanent force tasked with securing sea lanes by searching for and removing naval mines.

The stop was concluded by a joint PASSEX exercise in Algerian territorial waters, in which two units from Algeria’s navy participated. Algeria was expecting NATO to be the first technical and military supporter of the soldiers working in the unified military command of the Sahel countries, based in Tamanrasset. But [ NATO] indirectly bears the consequences of the situation in the Sahel and the subsequent outbreak of the situation in northern Mali, given the implications of its unprecedented armed intervention in Libya.

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