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European Commission - Press release

HR/VP Catherine Ashton and European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs met with Sahel ministers

Brussels, 08 December 2011 - On December 8th, High Representative Catherine Ashton met with Soumeylou Boubèye Maiga and Mohamed Bazoum, Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Mali and Niger respectively, as well as Abdelkader Messahel, Minister delegate for Maghreb and African Affairs of Algeria. The ministers were accompanied by the Ambassador of Mauritania, Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Brahim Khlil.

The meeting took place in the context of the implementation of the EU Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel, and against a background of an increasing number of security incidents against European citizens, and the worrying impact of the Libyan crisis for all these countries. Ministers Maiga and Bazoum also discussed the Strategy with Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs .

These four countries are particularly affected by the recent rise in terrorist activities in the region. This has led to the kidnapping of five Europeans over the last few weeks, and the death of a German citizen. The EU has firmly condemned these acts.

In the aftermath of the Libyan crisis, and with new terrorist threats emerging in northern Nigeria, the joint visit by the Ministers from these countries is a concrete follow up to the September Algiers Conference that aimed at promoting regional cooperation between Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger in their fight against terrorism in the Sahel.

Catherine Ashton said: "This common action is fully supported by the European Union: regional cooperation is fundamental to respond to a threat that knows no borders. In this context, the European Union has put in place a Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel, which is already operational. 150 million euros have been earmarked to support these efforts, covering as a priority Mauritania, Mali and Niger. The EU's comprehensive approach encompasses diplomatic, security and development efforts. The Sahel Strategy and today's meeting demonstrate the European Union’s solidarity with Sahel countries affected by the terrorist threat. It also emphasises the EU's continuous support to regional cooperation as a means to tackle this threat."

Ministers Maiga and Bazoum also met Humanitarian Affairs Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva to discuss the risk of a food crisis in the Sahel. To address this, the European Union is putting in place a response for short-term food aid challenges, but also for medium and long-term issues related to agricultural production and the reduction of vulnerability.

Contacts :

Michael Mann (+32 2 299 97 80)

Maja Kocijancic (+32 2 298 65 70)

Sebastien Brabant (+32 2 298 64 33)

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