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Mauritania - US Relations

Before Mauritania's August 2005 coup, U.S.-Mauritania relations had been excellent, but had undergone several transformations since the country gained independence. From 1960 to 1967, the United States maintained cordial relations with Mauritania and provided a small amount of economic assistance. During the June 1967 Middle East war, Mauritania broke diplomatic and consular relations with the United States but restored ties 2 years later and maintained relatively friendly relations until the late 1980s, despite disagreement over the Arab-Israeli issue.

The 1989 rupture between Mauritania and Senegal (the "1989 Events"), which resulted in Mauritania's deportation of Senegalese citizens and also the purge of tens of thousands of Afro-Mauritanians from the military and government and their expulsion to Senegal and Mali, negatively affected U.S.-Mauritanian relations. (The Mauritanian Government, assisted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), began repatriating Mauritanians displaced to Senegal and Mali in early 2008. The repatriation of returnees from Senegal ended in December 2009.) Moreover, Mauritania's perceived support of Iraq prior to and during the 1991 Gulf war further weakened strained ties.

Relations between the U.S. and Mauritania reached a low in the spring of 1991, as details of the Mauritanian military's role in widespread human rights abuses surfaced. The U.S. responded by formally halting U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) operations and all military assistance to Mauritania. Relations also suffered in the 1990s as a result of repeated reports that slavery continued in some parts of Mauritania despite legal proscriptions.

By the late 1990s, the Mauritanian Government: adopted policies facilitating the return of those expelled or who fled during the 1989 Events; turned away from Iraq and toward the West; and initiated a poverty reduction strategy while securing debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. Improved relations with the United States, including the return of military cooperation and training programs, accompanied these changes.

The United States condemned the 2005 coup and the unconstitutional assumption of power by the Military Council for Justice and Democracy, and called for a return to a constitutional government through free and fair elections as soon as possible. The U.S. Government supported Mauritania's transition to democracy, providing election-related assistance for voter education, political party training, and democracy building. Following the successful series of 2006-2007 parliamentary and presidential elections, the U.S. mobilized considerable amounts of development assistance.

The United States strongly condemned the 2008 military coup that overthrew President Abdallahi, the legitimate and democratically elected president. U.S.-Mauritania relations were strained due to the U.S.'s principled position in defense of democracy; its rejection and active denunciation of the coup; the suspension of all development and cooperation programs; its call for international sanctions; and the imposition of travel restrictions on the junta and its supporters. The Dakar Accord signed on June 4, 2009 was a significant diplomatic achievement, as it succeeded in bringing radically opposed positions closer together in the best interest of Mauritania. President Abdallahi’s return to sign the Government of National Unity decree and his own voluntary resignation, two conditions crucial to the U.S. for a return to constitutionality, helped pave the way for diplomatic rapprochement.

The United States, along with the Government of National Unity and the international community, accepted the July 18, 2009 election of former General Aziz as reflecting the general will of the Mauritanian people. Following the international certification of the 2009 election, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) re-launched their development programs in Mauritania, which had been suspended following the coup. The U.S. congratulated President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz on his victory and called on all Mauritanian political leaders to continue to work together constructively and respectfully in the interest of their people.

Since then, the United States has worked energetically with the Mauritanian Government on a wide array of issues, including counterterrorism cooperation, food security, trade promotion, and efforts to strengthen human rights and the rule of law.

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