Tripoli, Asharq Al-Awsat- Mauritanian Foreign Minister and Leader of the Party of Union for Democracy Naha Bint Mouknass asserted that her country is open to all states of the world on the basis of mutual respect. She said that her country’s government does not deal with invented political crises and has no time to waste in hollow discussions.
The Mauritanian foreign minister said President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz welcomes anyone who seeks dialogue for the sake of the sons of Mauritania. She noted that the priority has been given to improving the standards of living of the Mauritanian people.
The following is the text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Why has the Mauritanian Parliament not convened to organize its situation after the presidential elections?
[Bint Mouknass] The current parliament was formed through genuine democratic elections in November 2006. Therefore, there has been no change in the parliament because there is a majority in it that supports President Ould Abdel Aziz. It is the majority in democracies that govern. However, there is a minority in the parliament that exercises its right to opposition. Accordingly, there is no room for talk about any changes here or there.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about the status of Mesaoud Ould Boulkheir? He led an aggressive campaign against President Ould Abdel Aziz and the council of government both before and after the presidential elections.
[Bint Mouknass] We have a national assembly and a senate. Mesaoud Ould Boulkheir is the speaker of the national assembly, and he has four MPs while the majority has 95. If we dealt with him on the basis of the size of his opposition, he would get nothing. However, we decided to give him the post of speaker of the national assembly as part of a move to absorb all Mauritanian political forces and not sideline the opposition in order to engage in collective action to build Mauritania. The political situation in Mauritania is improving, and the Mauritanian Parliament will meet in November.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What are the priorities of the parliament’s agenda?
[Bint Mouknass] The parliament will discuss all the issues that caused a political and democratic impasse throughout the past period. In addition, the parliament will work out a budget that is commensurate with President Ould Abdel Aziz’s project to help the poor and the youth and build the infrastructure in order to proceed toward a comprehensive development.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What progress has the Mauritanian national dialogue made? Is there any clear program in this regard?
[Bint Mouknass] The dialogue is there, and the president is open to everyone who seeks dialogue to discuss all issues that serve the state’s security, stability, and development.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] I mean dialogue on the agenda over which there has been disagreement since the election stage.
[Bint Mouknass] This kind of dialogue would be launched if there was a crisis in the country at present, as was the case in the past. Currently, however, the political crisis has ended. It was settled by the presidential elections.
Nevertheless, if there is an invented crisis, we have no time to waste in hollow discussions. What deserves dialogue and discussion is the Mauritanian Government’s current drive to implement strategic projects to improve the citizens’ living conditions, on the basis that these projects are the main objective at present.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] President Ould Abdel Aziz asserted that his priority is to organize the home from within. Is he close to achieving this task?
[Bint Mouknass] We, in Mauritania, give priority to education, health, and infrastructure because these sectors are the basis of the country’s progress, and when we shift to another phase in the reforms, the road will be paved for achieving the Mauritanian people’s ambitions.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about foreign aid to revive the Mauritanian economy?
[Bint Mouknass] We have promises made by brothers and friends, and we are confident that they are serious in honoring their promises.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you intend to conduct foreign tours to strengthen Mauritania’s relations?
[Bint Mouknass] I received invitations from a number of states and will answer them soon, for the domestic situation is linked to the foreign policy. President Ould Abdel Aziz stated on more than one occasion that he is open to all states of the world, but on the basis of mutual respect.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] And what about Nouakchott’s current relations with Washington?
[Bint Mouknass] The US Administration announced that it will cooperate with, and support, Mauritania in all spheres in full transparency, and we reciprocate the same stand.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is Mauritania still coming under pressure to establish relations with Israel?
[Bint Mouknass] The priority is to improve the Mauritanian people’s living conditions. Political issues come next.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] A meeting of the donor nations was scheduled to be held to extend aid to Mauritania after resolving the political crisis. Is there anything new in this respect?
[Bint Mouknass] I spoke about this issue with Arab League Secretary General Amr Musa, and he said that this meeting will be held soon. He also asserted to me that the donor states are committed to the pledges that they made during talks to reach a resolution to the crisis. Currently, all opportunities are available for cooperation with all states of the world.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about the relations with Saudi Arabia?
[Bint Mouknass] As far as cooperation is concerned, we give priority to the Arab brothers, with Saudi Arabia in the lead. We seek to develop this cooperation in the future.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] In your capacity as leader of a political party in Mauritania, how was the beginning?
[Bint Mouknass] The party that I lead is the Party of Union for Democracy and Progress, which my father (Hamdi Ould Mouknass) founded when he was foreign minister back in 1968.
Afterward, I found myself in a political and diplomatic environment from which I have learned a great deal of experience. This is in addition to my study at a French university from where I received a degree in higher studies of business. Afterward, I practiced political and diplomatic action.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What did your party contribute to the political scene in Mauritania?
[Bint Mouknass] The party’s title provides sufficient explanation of its political line. Union means unity, especially because there are Arabs and Africans in Mauritania. Therefore, unity must be established between them. And there is the democracy, which means justice and equality, on the basis of which progress can be achieved in the country.