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Sahel-Saharan defence officials talk military cooperation in Sharm El-Sheikh

Representatives from 27 African countries are attending the meetings of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States

Ahram Online , Tuesday 22 Mar 2016
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Military experts from the Comunity of Sahel-Saharan member states convened on Tuesday in a fifth preparatory meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh ahead of the defence ministers' conference set to be held at the end of the week.

The preparation meetings will continue until Wednesday, after which defence ministers will meet on Thursday and Friday.

The meeting comes ahead of a summit of heads of member-states of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States organisation to be held in Morocco later this year.

The Community of Sahel-Saharan States was created in 1998 and currently consists of 27 African countries including Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Chad, Tunisia and Togo. 

Originally created for economic unity, the organisation has expanded to prioritise military matters.

A number of defence ministry representatives, ambassadors and military attaches from the 27 countries that form the Community are in attendance.

The meetings will focus on ways to reactivate regional cooperation in security and military matters in combating terrorism in the region of Sahel and Sahara, as well as legal and structural matters of the organisation.

A proposition by Egypt to establish a Community of Sahel-Saharan States centre for fighting terrorism will also be studied.

In preparation for the upcoming summit of presidents in Morocco, the meetings will study a draft protocol to establish the Security and Peace Permanent Council of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States, its bylaws, as well as an amended draft protocol for the mechanism for settlement, prevention and management of conflicts in the region. A declaration for security and development strategies for the Community is set to be established too.

The secretary-general of the Community proposed in his opening speech on Tuesday the holding of direct talks between state representatives regarding border security, joint military exercises, removing mines and military sports tournaments.

"This meeting is held during harsh times for our region, times that are affected by terrorist threats and an increase in trans-border crime," Algerian secretary-general Ibrahim Sani Abani said in his speech, adding that such a situation "threatens the survival of our states and our societies in terms of their political cultures, economic successes and civilisations."

On Saturday, at least 13 Egyptian policemen were killed in an attack on a checkpoint in North Sinai.

Earlier in the month, at least 50 people were killed in Tunisia in a militant attack that targeted army and police posts in the town of Ben Guerden near the Libyan border.

Egyptian deputy defence minister for foreign affairs Mohamed El-Keshky said in his opening speech that the region is a place for the meeting of civilisations and peoples, "but has become in the past few years a place for conflicts and a source of threats due to intertwined reasons where a number of factors reacted together, mainly a wave of terrorism which threatens most regions in the world, in addition to economic, political and social factors."

El-Keshky said the security threats in the region will be studied and ways to consolidate military cooperation between the represented states will be looked into.

"Our responsibility as military men has become more complicated in light of the development of the terrorist organisations' capabilities," El-Keshky said.

The meeting’s closing statement will include the outcome of the meetings regarding the security situation in the region and ways to tackle it.

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