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Mauritania Table of Contents


Relations with Other States of the Maghrib

Focusing on internal affairs prior to independence, Mauritania was reluctant to participate in the Common Saharan States Organization proposed by France in 1957, and the organization collapsed when Algeria gained its independence. From the mid-1970s, Mauritania's ties with Libya and, to a greater extent, Algeria were inextricably linked to the Western Sahara conflict and the larger confrontation between Algeria and Morocco. As relations with Morocco cooled following Mauritania's unilateral withdrawal from the conflict, ties with Algeria improved. Within days after the March 1981 coup attempt, Algeria dispatched military reinforcements to Nouakchott. In December 1983, Algeria joined Mauritania and Tunisia in pledging to negotiate conflicts according to the terms of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship. Algeria also refurbished the oil refinery at Nouadhibou in 1982, and again in 1987, after the refinery had been shut down for several years for lack of adequate maintenance.

Since the 1984 coup that brought Taya to power, Mauritania has been scrupulous in its efforts to balance its contacts with Algeria and Morocco. A visit to one capital by a Mauritanian diplomat is quickly followed by a visit to the other. When the sixth berm was completed in May 1987, bringing Moroccan troops to within a few kilometers of Mauritanian territory, Algeria offered to send troops to Nouadhibou, ostensibly to discourage hotpursuit raids by Moroccan armed forces. Taya refused the offer, but at the same time he accorded Algeria special fishing rights without the joint participation required of other national fleets fishing Mauritania's waters.

Libya's relations with Mauritania were generally confrontational. On several occasions, Libya has expressed its intention of absorbing Mauritania into an Islamic federation, and Libya allegedly backed a coup attempt in Mauritania in December 1980. The Oujda Agreement between Morocco and Libya, signed in 1984, was viewed as a serious threat in Mauritania that was removed only when the agreement collapsed in 1986. Although Mauritania has repeatedly professed neutrality in the Western Sahara, Taya's unwillingness to lend support to the Polisario was interpreted by Libya as a pro-Moroccan stance. In 1987 Taya suggested that Libya was supporting efforts by black separatists in Mauritania to destabilize his government and possibly exact a modicum of revenge against King Hassan II of Morocco, Libya's erstwhile ally.

Data as of June 1988