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Spain’s capital ramps up security to host Nato summit

Madrid was turned into a high-security zone on Tuesday, with thousands of police guarding venues where over 40 world leaders will gather for a Nato summit focused on Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

madrid security nato summit
To avoid gridlock in the city of over three million, local authorities strongly recommended that people work from home if possible.(Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Dubbed “Eirene”, after the ancient Greek Goddess of peace, the operation involves the biggest deployment of security forces in “Spain’s recent history”, according to the government.

A total of 10,000 agents backed by sniffer dogs and helicopters have been deployed to provide security for the 5,000 delegates attending the three-day summit, which gets underway on Tuesday evening.

Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles said fighter jets and anti-aircraft artillery devices had also been placed on high alert to protect Spanish airspace.

US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson are among the leaders expected at the gathering of Nato members and a dozen specially invited nations.

READ ALSO: Sánchez and Spanish King to meet with Biden before Madrid Nato summit

“Madrid and Spain will be the centre of the world,” Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares told private television Antena 3.

On Tuesday, police on foot and on horseback patrolled the streets of Madrid, which were monitored by police helicopters and drones.

The tightest security was around the IFEMA conference centre in the northeast of the capital, where the summit will take place.

Roads leading to the conference centre were cut off and the nearest metro stations was closed.

Access to the hotels where delegations are staying was also restricted.

To avoid gridlock in the city of over three million, local authorities strongly recommended that people work from home if possible.

Madrid’s Prado museum, which will host a gala dinner on Wednesday evening, will be closed to the public for two days.

The capital’s imposing central square, the Plaza Mayor, will be closed from Tuesday afternoon and used as parking space for the delegate’s vehicles.

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NATO

Spain and Mali foreign ministers speak after row over NATO remarks

Mali's Foreign Minister said Saturday he had spoken with his Spanish counterpart after a row over comments the Spaniard made about the possibility of a NATO operation in the African country.

Spain and Mali foreign ministers speak after row over NATO remarks

Mali’s Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop wrote in a tweet that he had spoken by phone with his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Albares about the comments, which were made in a radio interview.

“He denied the remarks and expressed his attachment to friendly relations and cooperation with Mali,” wrote Diop.

Spain moved to calm the row Saturday, a day after a day the military regime in Bamako had summoned their ambassador for an explanation.

“Spain did not ask during the NATO summit or at any other time for an intervention, mission or any action by the Alliance in Mali,” said a statement from Spain’s embassy.

The row blew up over remarks by Albares in an interview Thursday with Spain’s RNE radio. Asked if a NATO mission in Mali could be ruled out, Albares said: “No, we can’t rule it out.”

“It hasn’t been on the table at the talks in Madrid because this is a summit that is laying out, so to speak, the framework for NATO action.”

“If it were necessary and if there was to be a threat to our security, of course it would be done,” he added.

Albares was speaking on the sidelines of the NATO summit as it drew to a close in Madrid. Diop had told state broadcaster ORTM on Friday that Bamako had summoned the Spanish ambassador to lodge a strong protest over the remarks.

READ ALSO: Nato apologises after hanging Spanish flag upside down at Madrid summit

“These remarks are unacceptable, unfriendly, serious,” said Diop, because “they tend to encourage an aggression against an independent and sovereign country”.

“We have asked for explanations, a clarification of this position from the Spanish government,” he added.

At the Madrid summit, Spain pushed hard to prioritise the topic of the threat to NATO’s southern flank caused by the unrest in the Sahel — the vast territory stretching across the south of Africa’s Sahara Desert, incorporating countries such as Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

Jihadist attacks there are pushing increasing numbers of people to flee north towards Europe, with Spain one of the main points of entry there.

READ ALSO: Spain’s capital ramps up security to host Nato summit

At the summit, NATO acknowledged the alliance’s strategic interest in the Middle East, north Africa and the Sahel.

Mali has since 2012 been rocked by jihadist insurgencies. Violence began in the north and then spread to the centre and to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

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