Ian Lesser, advisor of former president Bill Clinton, to El Khabar
El Khabar, 29 may 2008
Ian Lesser, advisor of former U.S. President Bill Clinton, for the Mediterranean affairs, said that Algeria occupies a central place in the region, and it is necessary to exploit the opportunities to develop relations between the two countries. In an interview with El Khabar, he denied the existence of any competitiveness or a conflict between Europe and the USA on the Mediterranean region.
El Khabar: What is the Mediterranean region for you and for U.S. policy in general?
Ian Lesser: USA maintains traditional close relations with the Mediterranean states, whether in trade, energy or diplomatic presence, and more cultural relations. Our relations are rich and date back to 200 years, but we did not, however, have a specific strategy in the Mediterranean region, and we wonder what will be our strategy in the future and what areas it will be based on.
El Khabar: Can we say that since September 11, Americans started to be aware of the importance of playing a role in the region of the Mediterranean region?
Ian Lesser: I think the events of September 11 have changed the policy of USA and its strategy in several forms and aspects. We had to concentrate on certain issues, and of course the terrorist threat is now at the heart of our concerns, and there is a growing interest in North Africa.
El Khabar: What about Algeria, it is an important country for policy USA?
Ian Lesser: of course, Algeria is an important country in U.S. policy in the region, and we can say that we have wasted much time to realize it, because of the cold war or the black decade and the wave of violence experienced by Algeria. I think that today the situation has changed greatly. I have already visited Algeria twice before this visit, the first time in 1992 and the second in 1998, and I have seen a change. I think Algeria has an important role to play in the international arena. There are many opportunities and capabilities to develop in the Algerian-American relations, because Algeria occupies a central place in the region given its geographical position and its human capacities, in addition to its historic heritage and its energy resources.
El Khabar: Do you share the view that the project purpose of the union for the Mediterranean is to block the USA, which begins to pay more attention to the Mediterranean region?
Ian Lesser: I do not think that such vision exists in the USA, and this is not my point of view. There is no competition or conflict between the USA and Europe. We share the same concerns: whether energy, environment or immigration.
El Khabar: What do you think of Africom project that America failed to pass, especially since many African states including Algeria have refused or expressed reservations about the project?
Ian Lesser: Our main military structures are in Europe and the Middle East. As I said, we do not have a specific policy for the Mediterranean region, which is why I exclude the fact that it has a military presence in Africa and especially in northern Africa, as it is difficult for the public opinion of these States to accept such a measure.
El Khabar: Do you think that U.S. policies are responsible for some hotbeds of tension such as Palestine and Iraq, giving terrorist groups a pretext to perpetrate crimes on behalf of the fight against the enemy American?
Ian Lesser: You can say that part of terrorism in the world is motivated by goals, motives and political conflicts, and I think the USA realizes that this part of terrorism comes from the fact that its policies are not accepted.