Libya's foreign minister Mohamed Abdulaziz
Libya has stopped the flow of weapons across the Sahara desert that took place during the Libyan uprising and its immediate aftermath, but it is important that the UN thinks of a force drawn from neighbouring countries to help Mali after current crisis, Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdulaziz said.
“We have no further intelligence of the smuggling of weapons. There is absolutely no indication of weapons flowing to Mali,” the Libyan FM said on Thursday. He also warned that extremists across the Sahel region could be networking with other terrorists especially the ones in Afghanistan.
Abdulaziz, who was attending an African Union (AU) foreign ministers meeting to prepare for the AU summit, said it is imperative that the international community continue supporting Mali and UN peacekeepers should be deployed in Mali once a French-led offensive against al-Qaeda backed militants is over.
Abdul Aziz who is also a former experienced UN diplomat who served in Bosnia in the 1990s said "our vision is that when the operation ends, the Security Council should consider deploying a limited peacekeeping force in the area."
He said the peacekeepers should be part of a broader military exit strategy which he referred as "preventive diplomacy" and called on Western governments to start thinking about it seriously.
"If there is no preventive diplomacy... it will be very difficult to sustain security in the area," Abdul Aziz said.
"We know that if the situation in Mali deteriorates, it will have serious consequences in Libya," the minister was quoted saying.
He added that, “strategically what those extremists want is to expand the operation in other areas, in neighbouring countries to divert attention from northern Mali."
Any UN peacekeeping force would need to be drawn from neighbouring countries, Abdulaziz said.
He also warned that the military operation to restore state power in northern Mali must be carried out within the shortest possible time, to avoid complicating the fragile security situation across the North African region.
"You can't secure an area without its own people and therefore the engagement of neighboring countries in a peacekeeping operation is a must," he said.
He stressed that curbing the extremist threat across the region would require stricter border controls, especially along the 4,500-km Algerian-Malian border.
"There is the networking of the extremists and it is not confined to the Sahel. It has the Afghan connection, security is essential across the borders to limit their influence," the minister said.
Abdulaziz said the Libyan authorities were saddened by the Algerian crisis and were particularly worried that such situations could reoccur with deadly consequences if the security situation in Mali is not controlled.
"There is no information that Libyans were involved. The extremists want to expand to other areas. We are observing the situation," Abdul Aziz was quoted saying by the Pan-African News Agency, PANA on Thursday.
The minister said to effectively control the extremist threat, the European Union and the US, through its African Command, AFRICOM, should invest in other security aspects to stop possible flow of arms, including engaging tribal elders and connections.