Prominent women in politics in the Arab world are very few and far between, but one has risen to one of the great offices of state; the foreign ministry of Mauritania in west Africa, even if some snipe that Alnaha Bint Djaddi Oueld Meknes only has the job because her father was foreign minister for 17 years.
Riad Muasses, euronews: “You are a member of President Mohammed Ouild Abd el Aziz’s first government, and as head of the foreign ministry you are the first Arab woman to hold such high office. What will be the general direction of the new president’s foreign policy?” Alnaha Bint Djaddi Oueld Meknes: “In his acceptance speech just after the presidential elections President Mohamed Ouild Aabd el Aziz underlined that Mauritania’s foreign policy would serve the interests of Mauritania and the Mauritanian people. We are going to work to ensure our foreign policy is productive and focussed on development. Our foreign policy will be defined by the needs and interests of our people.” EN: “President Abdel Aziz has visited Venezuela and has good relations with Hugo Chavez, along with Mouammar Gaddafi in Libya, and Iran. Will foreign policy now take a new course?” ABDOM: “From today relations with brother nations and friendly states will be based above all on mutual respect. They will be based on respect for the soveregnity of the Mauritanian state and the interests of the Mauritanian people. Any brother or friend ready to work with us respecting these principles will be welcome, and we will be open to any sort of collaboration with countries prepared to respect our soverenity.” EN: “We know that President Abdel Aziz has a working visit to France on the 26th of this month. What are the most important issues on the agenda in talks with President Sarkozy?” ABDOM: “There are several scheduled for this meeting. There are priority issues for our president, who is commited to reforms in the education, health, infrastructure and security, for Mauritanians and above all for foreigners living in Mauritania.” EN: “Are you saying that France might send aid to Mauritania like training for the army, or direct military aid that might help to re-enforce security around the country. ? ABDOM: “There is a role for anyone who wants to help the Mauritanian state improve its citizen’s living standards.” EN: “Has France already said it is ready to provide this sort of aid?” ABDOM: “We are ready to work with any country that expresses its desire to work with Mauritania.” EN: “We know that Mauritania has suffered from terrorist attacks recently. Is there a plan, or any sort of co-operation with France in this specific area?” ABDOM: “First of all I’d like to say categorically that there are no terrorist training camps on Mauritanian soil. There aren’t any terrorist bases, either. Of course there are infiltrations across our borders with neighbours and we are trying to bring this dangerous trend to an end. We are ready to co-operate with any nation that wants to help Mauritania and the other concerned nations guarantee the security of their citizens.” EN: “After the war in Gaza the Mauritanian president closed the Israeli embassy in Nouakchott. Do you intend to reopen it?” ABDOM: “The government and president’s priority is to improve living standards for the Mauritanian people. All other issues will be dealt with at the right moment.” EN: “Mauritania is a transit hub for illegal immigration towards Europe , and Europe is very concerned by this question, especially France and Spain. We know that Italy has signed a convention with Libya concerning this. Has Mauritania signed conventions with Europe, or is it taking steps to restrict this illegal immigration?” ABDOM: “Even if there are signed conventions with other states to limit illegal immigration I think the solution to the problem is to fight against poverty and improve education. If there is a drive to reduce poverty then we are sure that illegal immigration will fall one day.” EN: “The last question concerns you personally. You are the Arab world’s first female foreign minister. Mauritania is the first nation to do this. Do you think it is the Mauritanian president pushing for female emancipation in Mauritanian politics, or is it more due to the fact your father was a long-serving foreign minister?” ABDOM: “I’m very proud of the political career my father forged in the service of his country, and I see my nomination as a gesture towards all educated Mauritanian women, encouraging the half of our community to fully integrate in society. 52 per cent of the Mauritanian population is female.” EN: Minister, thank you.