Morocco hosted the first meeting of the Global Coalition against ISIS in Africa, which was called upon by the Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and his US counterpart Anthony Blinken, who did not attend the meeting after he tested positive for the coronavirus.
The meeting included 84 regional and international entities and 42 foreign ministers and focused on the challenges posed by terrorism in all its forms and the repositioning of ISIS in Africa.
In his opening speech at the ministerial meeting, Bourita said: "Separatism and terrorism are often two sides of the same coin," adding that a "worrying trend has been on the rise without garnering the necessary attention: the terrorism-separatism nexus."
"The collusion against the sovereignty and stability of states, and the convergence of financial, tactical and operational means, create an objective alliance between terrorist and separatist groups."
Bourita warned that "those who finance, shelter, support, and weaponize separatism, are actually contributing to spread terrorism and further compromise regional peace and security."
Morocco has been calling for a multilateral response that enhances solidarity and integration, Bourita explained.
Bourita indicated that the opening of the Rabat-based Program Office for Counter-Terrorism and Training in Africa of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism enhances the coalition's capabilities.
He explained that the UN office constitutes a new organization containing terrorism in Africa and proposes programs to boost several fields.
The FM said that Morocco had developed an effective, multi-dimensional, comprehensive strategy to combat terrorism and extremism.
The good policies developed by the Moroccan security services and the unique approach adopted by the Kingdom reflects a deep conviction in Africa's capabilities, as emphasized by King Mohammed VI.
US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland affirmed that the members of the international coalition against ISIS are committed to ensuring the complete elimination of ISIS in Iraq, Syria, Africa, and the whole world.
Nuland explained that the coalition's work includes liberating ISIS-controlled territories in Iraq and Syria and identifying global areas that may shape a fertile ground for the spread of terrorist groups.
She indicated that the participants would focus on evaluating the coalition's work and its members during the past year in Iraq, Syria, the African continent, and Afghanistan.
The official warned that ISIS continues to pose a threat, waiting to rebuild itself.
She urged vigilance in the face of the threat ISIS constantly poses globally, especially in Africa.
Terrorist attacks increased by 43 percent during the period 2018-2021 in the Sahel region, said Nuland, adding that about 500 terrorist ISIS attacks were recorded in 2021, killing more than 2,900 people on the African continent.
She warned that ISIS and other terrorist groups enhanced their influence and capabilities in the Sahel region while al-Qaeda affiliated Nusrat al-Islam threatened the Sahel region.
"The United States is committed to working with our partners in West Africa to confront the challenges that have allowed these groups to flourish, among them lack state legitimacy, persistent rights violations, and food insecurity," she said.
"In response to this and other security threats, the United States will spend over $119 million in new assistance in sub-Saharan Africa to improve the capabilities of civilian law enforcement and the judiciary to disrupt, apprehend, prosecute and convict terrorists across the continent."
In a joint press conference with Nuland, Bourita confirmed that 27 terrorist entities are registered on the UN Security Council sanctions list.
"This is a clear indicator of their connections to major global terrorist groups."
The Ministers welcomed the first meeting and reaffirmed their shared determination to continue the fight against ISIS through military and civilian-led efforts contributing to the enduring defeat of the terrorist group.
The Ministers stressed the importance of addressing underlying causes of insecurity in Africa while reiterating that any lasting solution to halting the spread of ISIS on the continent will rely primarily on national authorities, as well as sub-regional and regional efforts and initiatives that acknowledge and address the political and economic drivers of conflict.
The Ministers also reiterated their global commitment to the survivors and families of victims of ISIS crimes, including by holding the ISIS leaders and perpetrators accountable.
Earlier, the US Secretary of State spoke with the Moroccan Foreign Minister over the phone, expressing his regret that he could not attend the meeting and conveyed that Nuland would represent the US.
Blinken thanked Bourita for Morocco's hosting of the meeting, its commitment to counterterrorism, and its role in promoting regional security and stability.