7 Department of State Dispatch 193 (1996)
U.S. Policy toward Algeria

handle is hein.journals/dsptch16 and id is 295 raw text is: Algeria

U.S. Policy Toward Algeria
Robert H. Pelletreau, Assistant Secretary
For Near Eastern Affairs
Statement before the Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Washington, DC, April 16, 1996

ood morning, Mr. Chairman, and
distinguished members of the
subcommittee. I am pleased to
have this opportunity to discuss with
you my recent visit to Algeria and
United States policy toward that
important North African nation.
Algeria is the second-largest nation
in Africa and plays a leadership role in
North Africa, the Middle East, and the
greater Mediterranean region. Algeria
supports the Middle East peace process
and is important for regional efforts to
enhance security, stability, and peace.
Beyond a geopolitical interest in
regional stability, U.S. interests also
include sizable public and private
investment in Algeria's hydrocarbon
sector. Algeria currently chairs the
Organization of Petroleum Exporting
Algeria has been a country of acute
international concern ever since the
army intervened in January 1992 to
abort legislative elections the Islamic
Salvation Front-FIS-seemed poised
to win. The ensuing three years saw a
succession of narrowly based govern-
ments facing a radicalized Islamist
movement and a spreading insurgency.
Last August, the Algerian Government
announced plans for presidential
elections in November. It remained an
open question whether credible
elections could be held in a climate of
violence and political uncertainty.
But on November 16, 1995, Algeri-
ans voted in large numbers to elect
incumbent President Zeroual with 60%
of the vote in Algeria's first multi-party
presidential election. Although some
opposition parties called for a boycott
of this election, we interpret the large
turn-out and the fact that there were
no major incidents disrupting the
election to mean that a majority of
Algerians wanted peace, stability, and

President Zeroual's avowed
mandate is national reconciliation. In
his inaugural speech, he promised
amnesty for those willing to give up
armed insurgency and offered reconcili-
ation with all-including Islamists-
who rejected violence and accepted the
rule of law. Although he quickly freed a
group of some 600 political prisoners
held in a desert detention camp, a far
greater number remain in jail. Presi-
dent Zeroual has already named a new
government that includes several
representatives of parties which
participated in the presidential elec-
tions. He has charged his government
with preparing the ground for legisla-
tive and municipal elections and
pursuing economic reform.
Algeria's economy grew in 1995 for
the first time in many years. Still, much
remains to be done to attract private-
sector investment and spur employ-
ment and growth to underpin the
nascent political program. The Prime
Minister and the President have
underlined their determination to
deregulate and liberalize the economy
and give the private sector a far bigger
role, including privatization of many
state enterprises. We have supported
such reforms in the IMF and World
Bank and recently signed a second
bilateral debt rescheduling.
Regrettably, Algeria remains
plagued by a high degree of violence.
Terrorist bombings, assassinations, and
kidnapings by extremists of the Armed
Islamic Group--GIA-and government
human rights abuses are characterized
in detail in our annual Country Reports
on Human Rights Practices. During
my recent visit, a car bomb-the 14th
of the year-killed six Algerians and
wounded 20 in the city of Tizi-Ouzou.
There has been a constant pattern of
attacks by insurgents against security

forces and civilians. The GIA has also
specifically threatened to kill Algerian
and foreign workers in the hydrocarbon
This ongoing violence is discourag-
ing much-needed private investment
except at remote desert oilfields, where
major new contracts in Algeria's
hydrocarbon sector have been signed
between Algerian and foreign firms,
including several U.S. companies.
Sustained economic recovery will
require a political solution to Algeria's
In the wake of the presidential
election, we believe that political and
economic liberalization holds promise
for stabilizing the situation over time.
The Algerians have shown a strong
preference for ballots over bullets. But
the progress toward political open-
ness must be real. Words, however
positive, will not be enough; actions
are required.
We believe that current develop-
ments warrant cautious optimism.
President Clinton wrote to President
Zeroual last December that the United
States would support him as he takes
steps to build on his election by broad-
ening and accelerating the process of
reconciliation and by continuing
economic reform.
I reiterated the President's mes-
sage on my visit to Algiers in March,
and I was encouraged to hear Presi-
dent Zeroual reaffirm his commitment
to national reconciliation through
dialogue. I also met with a range of
opposition political leaders. Shortly
after my visit, President Zeroual began
a national dialogue with politicians and
party leaders to move forward on
national reconciliation and prepare for
follow-on elections. The parties which
boycotted the presidential elections
last November have expressed a
willingness to join in elaborating a
party law and an electoral code.
We are hopeful that these political
and economic initiatives will be per-
ceived by Algerians as responsive to
their expectations for peaceful political
change, economic opportunity, and
good governance. We believe that
reconciliation among all Algerians who
reject violence and accept the rule of
law, be they secular or Islamist, offers
the best hope for democratic pluralism
in Algeria. We also recognize that

U.S. Department of State Dispatch * April 15, 1996 * Vol. 7, No. 16193


U.S. Department of State Dispatch * April 15, 1996 e Vol. 7, No. 16

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