Britain and Algeria could work together to respond to any future hostage crisis, under a deal unveiled by David Cameron last night.
The Prime Minister said a new security partnership could see greater intelligence-sharing to tackle al-Qaeda-linked extremism and joint planning for major incidents.
The plans emerged as Mr Cameron became the first UK premier to visit the North African country for 50 years.
His visit took place after 37 foreigners, including two Scots, at least ten Algerians and dozens of terrorists died in an attack on Algeria’s In Amenas gas plant, which is jointly operated by BP, earlier this month.
In a further sign of the increased importance being attached to the relationship, MI6 chief Sir John Sawers and national security adviser Sir Kim Darroch have also joined the trip.
Following talks with Algerian counterpart Abdelmalek Sellal this evening, Mr Cameron reiterated the importance of a “tough and intelligent” response to the growing threat from terrorists in the region.
“Both Britain and Algeria are countries that have suffered from terrorism and we understand each other’s suffering,” he said.
“What we have agreed is a strengthened partnership that looks at how we combat terrorism and how we improve security of this region.
“This should be about sharing our perspectives, about the risks and dangers that there are, but also sharing expertise.”
The countries are proposing to boost co-operation on issues such as border and aviation security, and preventing the spread of extremist ideology. Britain has invited Algeria to take part in a joint contingency planning exercise to share experiences in crisis response.
Mr Cameron defended the decision to boost Britain’s contribution to the intervention against rebels in neighbouring Mali. He denied that the UK – which is now providing up to 330 military personnel for training and air support – was at risk of getting into another Iraq or Afghanistan-style campaign.
Britain had “learned the lessons of the past”, he said:
Earlier, Mr Cameron said: “What is required in countries like Mali – just as countries like Somalia on the other side of Africa – is that combination of tough approach on security, aid, politics, settling grievances and problems.”