Mauritania and Libya/Mauritania & UNSC: short thoughts

UPDATE: See the comments regarding the Gulf countries.

Mauritania appears to be moving away from its previously close relationship with Libya’s Mu’amar al-Qadhafi. While Nouakchott has been active in the AU panel on Libya, it has not taken a strong leadership role in the process and appears to be gradually moving toward the Gulf countries’ overall position on Qadhafi. Nouakchott is likely to continue its efforts toward a ceasefire (and “exit plan”) through the AU panel but will more or less distance itself from Tripoli in such a way as not to lose any credibility with other African capitals with similar relations with Qadhafi in the meantime while generally conforming to continent-wide pressures from Paris, London and Washington to edge away from Tripoli (these being the same pressures which have prevented an extraordinary AU meeting on Libya; the Mauritanians are probably also as uncomfortable as the Chinese and Algerians with efforts to remove an “illegitimate” ruler by force from the outside, at least in principal). One suspects this comes in party in the context of generous aid pledges from the Gulf (Qatar especially) in recent months and Tripoli’s rapidly depleting political credibility and capacity to cover its clients with generous gifts. Continued support for Qadhafi would likely carry negative political consequences on the domestic front (see here) even if it might hold out the possibility of some financial largesse for the president and his supporters. On the whole the evolving posture seems to be that Qadhafi will not recover his prestige, influence or credibility in African affairs following the current crisis and that it is time to move on to other patrons.

Mauritania’s bid for a non-permanent seat on will likely work to cement this movement away from Qadhafi (particularly given Ould Abdel Aziz’s proximity to the Emir of Qatar, with whom he has made many deals on the diplomatic front). In pursuit of that UNSC seat, Foreign Minister Hamadi Ould Hamadi held separate meetings with a number of Arab, African and other ambassadors on 5 June (see: Sahara Media [Arabic]). These included ambassadors from: Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Qatar, Sudan, Syria and Palestine, the United States, Senegal, Mali and Gambia. Ould Hamdi also met with the Iranian charge d’affairs (President Ould Abdel Aziz met with the Iranian Defense Minister in Nouakchott, on 30 May, as well). Mauritania attempted to win a UNSC seat in 2007, but withdrew its candidature to support Libya. (There were three African candidates then: Burkina Faso, Libya and Mauritania. Burkina Faso was endorsed at the 2007 AU summit and Libya won favor through the rotation practices set up in the North African subregion of the African group, its rehabilitation process with the international community and was endorsed by the AU at the 2006 summit. Mauritania sought the AU’s endorsement at the 2007 summit but failed to convince and argued that it ought to have taken the seat because Libya had served on the council more recently than Mauritania (1976-1977 versus 1974-75, respectively.) Mauritania withdrew its bid “on the basis of the commitment fo the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya to lend its support to the future candidature of Mauritania to the Security Council for the period of 2012-2013.”) The list of Arab states is telling and indicates the Mauritanians likely leveraged their credibility on the Palestine issue ahead of the effort to have Palestine admitted to the UN in the fall. Nouakchott is very likely to use its relations with Libya as a means to get on the UNSC. Whether the Mauritanians get the seat will be determined later.

4 thoughts on “Mauritania and Libya/Mauritania & UNSC: short thoughts

  1. How does this square with the reported rift between Muritania and the gulf. There was just report carried on the widely read London based pan Arabic Alquds Alarabi about growing consternation in the Gulf about the political posturings of Ould Abdel Aziz. The last one,said the paper, concerned Ould Abdl Aziz’s support for Ali Abdalla Saleh in response to the latter’s reneging on his promise to sign a peace deal. Though this was a Saudi peace plan it had Qatar participating. Whether going along for fear of Saudi anger or genuine desire from Qatar to give saleh a generous exit deal is important.

    • Great point, Yusuf. I did not see that article until after this was posted and I think it further supports my conclusion that the Mauritanians are going to try to conform more closely to the Gulf policy on Libya and distance themselves from Qadhafi elsewhere. I didn’t comment as to whether the meetings were “successful” because I hadn’t seen this article until I was going through my bookmarks later on.

      For other readers, the article (I think) Yusuf is talking about is here (from 6/3): http://www.alquds.co.uk/index.asp?fname=data\201166-033e31.htm

      My thinking is that they are trying to tone down these problems and that their relationship with Qatar is still stronger than the one with Saudi; Aziz has habitually made moves like this and irritated the Gulf countries. He tends to respond quickly when there is a sense that doing so will immediately benefit him (the article says the situation is the worst since the Gulf war, when the Khaleejis retaliated against Ould Tayya for having supported Saddam). I’m not certain the Mauritanians will get what they’re after on the security council but it is very relevant to the subject, thanks for bringing it up here. Also notice that African countries he met with were ones that have changed their stances on Libya recently; I think he’s trying to position the country for the seat given the fact that Libya is likely not going to be able to back it up. The article also mentions the Gulfies being mad about protestors’ and journalists’ criticism of the Emir and the Saudis being angry over the new relationship with Iran. These are complications from the fact that Aziz has tried to play multiple sides and Mauritania’s domestic situation (the attitudes of the people). My sense is that the Mauritanians are trying to fall in line while keeping options open and are having a rough time because brushed feathers when they were tighter with Qadhafi. I think the kinds of criticisms listed in the article fit with the general efforts of the Gulf countries to push-back against uprisings and remind the Mauritanians to, well, get back in their place as a smaller, weaker country in the region.

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