Algeria knows that its foreign policy is not going through the best of times. The diplomatic rupture with Morocco opened a rift that Abdelmajdid Tebboune's government has not been able to bridge. Putting an end to the ties that linked his country with the regional leader has led to a distancing that has been transferred to countries closer to the Moroccans, such as France. While it is true that Paris is trying to bring Algiers closer, Tebboune's government is concerned about a situation that has led its foreign minister, Ahmed Ataf, to travel to Mali and Mauritania in an attempt to strengthen other ties.
Ataf travelled to Nouakchott to meet his Mauritanian counterpart and the president, Mohamed Ould Cheikh Al-Ghazwani. With the former, he signed an agreement aimed at improving political coordination on common issues, including the sub-Saharan region. After meeting with both in the Mauritanian capital, the Algerian minister travelled to Bamako to discuss one of the issues of concern in Algeria, namely the revision of the agreement they sponsored for reconciliation in Mali. While the Malians want to revise it, Algeria is reluctant to alter the agreement signed in 2015, thanks to which it had gained key influence in a region troubled by a lack of security.
On this tour of visits by Algeria, Ahmed Ataf was accompanied by the director of foreign intelligence, General Jabbar Muhanna. Observers see this gesture as a twofold Algerian concern. First, because Mali represents a decisive location, so there is an important interest in creating the conditions for fluidity and tranquillity, especially given the presence of armed groups in the region that use these crossings for their fluctuation. Second, the Tebboune government is concerned about recent developments in the southern region, and does not want to continue to lose relevance, as it is doing on the northern flank.
The Algerian Foreign Ministry has issued a communiqué on the meeting between the Algerian and Mauritanian delegations, stating that "the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding on political consultations, aimed at establishing a sustainable mechanism to improve political coordination between the two countries". They also state that one of the priority objectives is to "advance bilateral cooperation in several vital sectors, as well as to intensify consultations and coordination on regional and continental developments".
In Algeria, they do not lose sight of the clandestine migration coming from the south. In addition to the aforementioned movements of armed groups in the region, these migratory fluctuations have caused Algeria to focus a large part of its efforts on security, especially in the Sahel countries. This is also reflected in the Algerian communiqué, which states that 'the Algerian and Mauritanian ministers addressed issues of common interest at the Maghreb and Arab levels, as well as the evolution of the situation in the Sahel and Sahara region and at the continental level in general, underlining the importance of strengthening the consensus in the positions of the two countries and the wisdom they reflect in facing the various threats'.
Abdallah Diop, the Malian Minister of Foreign Affairs, accompanied by the Minister of National Defence and Veterans and the Minister of National Reconciliation in charge of Peace, were in charge of receiving Ataf on his arrival in Bamako. The issues discussed included "bilateral cooperation in the areas of telecommunications, fibre optics, fuel, higher education, training and increasing the number of flights to Bamako". However, the visit had a larger undercurrent, according to observers.
In recent months, threats between different factions within Mali have intensified and put the country's security at risk. Ahmed Ataf's trip to the Malian capital is intended to serve as an element of persuasion for both sides to return to the path of conciliation. The Algerian minister says it is vital to "achieve the priorities of the transition period and fulfil national obligations, which would lead to the country's return to the constitutional situation within the deadlines set by this country in a sovereign capacity". In this way, Algeria wants to mitigate the effects of France's exit from the region.
Many Malians see Algiers as an extension of Parisian influence, so there is some suspicion of the role of Tebboune's country. France is seen as one of the main causes of the current situation in Mali, having, in its view, encouraged the emergence of extremist groups and terrorist attacks. Hence, Algeria has to tread carefully and try to calm the waters with Bamako. The diplomatic bloodletting with the West and the North is too great for Algeria to continue losing influence south of its borders.