David Cameron chaired an emergency meeting today on the Algerian hostage crisis which Downing Street described as a “very serious and dangerous situation”.
A second session of Whitehall’s Cobra committee – bringing together ministers, military chiefs and the intelligence services – is to be held this afternoon.
The seizure of hostages has hit Mr Cameron’s preparations for a much-anticipated speech setting out future Tory direction on European Union policy which he is due to make tomorrow in Amsterdam.
Downing Street insisted he was still planning to travel to the Netherlands – and that preparations were being put in place for Mr Cameron to chair a further Cobra meeting tomorrow despite being out of the country. William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, is also out of Britain on a visit to Australia.
Mr Cameron’s official spokesman said: “The Prime Minister is always in charge. He often makes speeches.”
He has spoken to his Algerian counterpart, Abdelmalek Sellal, about the crisis, as well as the Japanese and Swedish Prime Ministers. Both nations have a number of hostages in the Algerian oil field.
Mr Cameron’s spokesman said Britain was allowing the Algerian government to take the lead in responding to the crisis. He said the Government was “working through” the Algerians and BP, which part-controls the facility, and indicated that Britain had not received any requests for help.
One Whitehall source said: “This is a situation where the Algerian government, understandably, very much sees itself as in the lead in its sovereign territory.”