African Union suspends Burkina Faso after military coup

LONDON: Spain’s foreign minister has urged NATO not to overlook the threat posed by its southern flank amid an escalating crisis with Russia.

Speaking ahead of a Madrid summit to modernize the alliance’s strategy, José Manuel Albares said NATO should look both south and east at potential security threats.

Spain relies heavily on gas-rich Algeria for energy and Morocco to control immigration to Spain and Europe.

Violence has also escalated further south in the Sahel region of West Africa, displacing thousands of people.

“The Mediterranean, the Maghreb, the Sahel and sub-Saharan Africa are vital for NATO and for Europe,” Albares told the Financial Times.

“We are talking about a 360 degree approach of NATO (to respond to threats) but without content it will only be a slogan… NATO must think about what its role will be.”

NATO’s core tasks and security challenges have not been updated since 2010, but the June summit in Spain will see member states tackle modern challenges.

Albares pointed to problems in the Sahel, where France decided last year to halve the number of its troops fighting Islamist militants.

“Jihadism is still there, as well as all kinds of illicit trafficking: weapons, human beings, drugs,” he said. “It’s extremely fragile. We see more and more military regimes in the Sahel,” he added, apparently referring to recent coups in Burkina Faso and Mali.

He urged NATO to consider increased engagement with the southern flank – through political dialogue, police and military training, and assistance with coastal patrols – while stressing that Spain was contributing to the response. of the alliance to the Ukrainian crisis by sending a warship to the Black Sea. .

Violence in the Sahel contributes to migration to Europe, forcing Spain to rely on Morocco to control the flow of people to the continent.

But relations between the two countries have been strained since last April, when a diplomatic crisis saw Morocco allow thousands of migrants to enter Spanish territories on the African continent.

Upon taking office last July, Albares said one of his goals was to strengthen ties with “our great neighbor and friend”.

Morocco’s ambassador to Madrid has still not returned to Spain, but Albares said “the spikes in tension we had in April and May have disappeared”.

He added that the Ukrainian crisis is unlikely to affect Spanish gas supplies, but that the deterioration of relations between Algeria and Morocco poses a threat to Spanish stability.

A diplomatic row between the two North African countries last August saw Algeria cut off its gas supply to Spain which passes through Morocco.

Albares said he had secured an agreement with Algeria to continue supplying gas through a smaller but direct pipeline, and gas would be supplied by ship if needed.

“The Algerian gas supply to Spain is totally guaranteed,” he added, without giving any assurances on prices.

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