UK Politics

Neighbourhood watch not mission creep

  • 30 January 2013
  • From the section UK Politics
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"Helping this neighbourhood to help itself."

With those words David Cameron heralded his arrival in Algeria - the first Western leader to visit this country since the hostage crisis which left 38 foreigners dead and the first British prime minister to visit in half a century of Algerian independence.

The prime minister has brought his national security advisor and the head of MI6 with him for talks designed to secure a new security partnership between the two countries. In practice that is likely to focus, at least to start with, more on the sharing of intelligence and less on defence co-operation.

The presence of the British trade envoy Lord Risby and the Algerian energy minister is a reminder that oil and not just security is high on the agenda here.

In the aftermath of the hostage crisis David Cameron described North Africa as a magnet for Al Qaeda terrorism and the focus of a new generational struggle against Islamic extremism.

After he had laid a wreath at the martyrs memorial in Algiers, I asked him if he could allay fears that this region could become his Iraq or Afghanistan. He insisted that it would not.