US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was to leave Washington yesterday to travel to Algeria, for discussions on the Mali crisis, before joining EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton in the Balkans.
The US Department of State said Clinton would meet tomorrow with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Algeria shares a long border with Mali, where extremists and rebel groups have taken over large swathes of the country’s north after a coup in March.
Mauritania and Algeria have called for dialogue in a bid to reach a political solution to the crisis, after ruling out sending troops to Mali to battle extremist militia.
The common influence among the fundamentalist armed groups ruling northern Mali is al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which originated in Algeria and is active in regional countries, including Mauritania.
The UN Security Council approved a resolution on Oct. 12 that presses West African nations to speed up preparations for an international military intervention aimed at reconquering northern Mali with a force that could eventually total 3,000 troops.
France and the US have said they stand ready to provide logistical support.
From Algeria, Clinton will head to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo “to demonstrate the enduring US interest, commitment and support for [the Balkans’] future in the European and Euro-Atlantic community,” the US Department of State said in a statement.
The top US diplomat, who last traveled in October 2010 to the three countries that emerged from the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and Serbia, will be joined by Ashton.
In Sarajevo, Clinton and Ashton “will underline the urgent need for party leaders to serve the interests of the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina and accomplish necessary reforms, and will stress the immutability of the international community’s commitment to the Dayton Peace Accords,” the statement added.
The Dayton Accords, reached in 1995 under the auspices of the US, ended the war in Bosnia.
In Belgrade and Pristina, Clinton and Ashton will “reiterate US-EU resolve for Serbia and Kosovo to build on previous agreements and advance their dialogue, as well as to encourage concrete steps that will allow those countries to progress on their respective paths to EU membership,” the US Department of State said.
Earlier this month, Ashton held talks in Brussels with Serbian Prime Minister Dacic and Kosovar Prime Minister Hashim Thaci together for the first time, an EU source said.
EU-facilitated talks aimed at easing strain in the western Balkans began early in the year, but at a lower level.