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Portugal’s defence minister, João Gomes Cravinho, on Wednesday acknowledged Portugal’s support to Mozambique given the situation in the north of the country and the armed groups, but any aid would depend on a request from the Maputo government.
“There is no idea in the European Union (EU) and in the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) of any support intervention, but this could be justified if the Mozambican government asked”, João Gomes Cravinho said in a hearing in the Parliamentary Defence Committee.
In the committee, three MPs asked questions about the “complex situation” in Mozambique and questioned the minister about the Portuguese position for the second consecutive meeting.
“As soon as possible”, he said, the minister will go to Mozambique “with this concern in mind”, besides other items on the agenda, and Portugal has “the willingness to support, as far as Mozambicans consider it possible”.
And “could include diplomatic support” to Mozambique “within the EU and CPLP,” he concluded.
As he had already done at the commission meeting in May, the Portuguese Defence Minister said the situation in northern Mozambique “is delicate.
There is, he described, “a very significant involvement of jihadist forces, which are taking advantage of the weaknesses of the [Mozambican] state response capacity and the conflicts that exist in the Cabo Delgado region and that have been intensified due to the discovery of oil and gas on the coast.
Another fundamental issue for the minister is the “profound respect for the sovereignty” of Mozambique and that “any initiative or proposal”, “any design” of international support must have “with the leadership” of the Government of Maputo.
Minister João Gomes Cravinho recalled that the Mozambican president, Filipe Nyusi, has already said it is “important to have the support of international partners, without detailing”.
In the previous meeting, in May, and in face of attacks from alleged groups allegedly associated with the Islamic State, the minister was careful to say that “what is happening in northern Mozambique is not yet very clear”.
In January, shortly after taking office as Mozambique’s defence minister, Jaime Neto asked Mozambicans for “confidence” in the capacity of defence and security forces to combat armed attacks in central and northern Mozambique.
Cabo Delgado, a region where megaprojects for the extraction of natural gas are advancing, is facing attacks from armed groups classified as a terrorist threat and which have already caused the death of at least 550 people in two and a half years.
On 15 May, Mozambique’s interior minister, Amade Miquidade, said that the Mozambican defence and security forces had been forced to adapt their strategy and means to confront the armed groups attacking in the north of the country.
In central Mozambique, armed attacks attributed to the Renamo Military Junta have targeted security forces and civilians in villages and on some stretches of road in the region since August last year, causing more than 20 deaths and several injured, in addition to the destruction of vehicles.