Diplomatic relations between Senegal and Mauritania were broken following ethnic disturbances in 1989. Relations were normalized in 1992, but the refugee question remains to be resolved and is greatly exacerbated by claims of racism against Mauritania. Members of the Mauritanian Association of Refugees in Senegal are not convinced that they will be safe and have called on the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to resume deliveries of medical and food aid. Complicating the refugee situation is the presence of Mauritanian refugees in Mali. The Taya government claims that some of these people were launching raids against Mauritania, and thus are not refugees in the view of his government.
In January 1998, following a restructuring of the Organization for the Development of the Senegal River, Mauritania lost several key posts. The high commissioner was arrested for treason because he had agreed to this restructuring plan. The organization was deadlocked for the first time since its formation in 1972. Dam construction and water flow control of this important river is essential for the Mauritanian food supply.
Fisheries have also become a major issue between Senegal and Mauritania. The 1983 fishing convention has not been followed since the 1989–92 war between them. Following the 1998 presidential election, the fisheries minister announced that Mauritania and Senegal soon would begin renegotiating the 1983 fishing convention, and that Senegalese fishing boats seized by the Mauritanian coast guard would be returned. A favorable treaty could give a needed boost to the Mauritanian fishing industry that has experienced steep decline in recent years.
Mauritania has pursued regional agreements with its neighbors, in an effort to reduce cross-border strife. In 1995 Mali and Senegal agreed to cooperate over border issues, political extremism, arms smuggling, and drug trafficking. In the same year, a joint agreement was reached with Algeria for bilateral relations to combat "all manifestations of terrorism." In February 1995, the Taya government met with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member states Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, and Israel for coordination of responses to Islamic fundamentalist organizations and weapons proliferation.
In September 2002, France made the first moves in restoring diplomatic relations with Mauritania after France's socialist government tried a Mauritanian military officer in 1999. French defense minister Michelle Alliot-Marie met with Taya to speak of strengthening the cooperation of the two governments.
The Taya government sought to repair relations with the Persian Gulf states, who had been angered by its support of Iraq in the Gulf War. This was followed in April 1994 by a joint communique in which Mauritania recognized Kuwait's borders. These events have led to a perceived loss of influence for Iraqi sympathizers and the Mauritanian Ba'ath Party. In 1998, 1999 and 2001, renewed relations with Israel, including allegations of an Israeli-Mauritanian agreement to store Israeli nuclear waste in Mauritania's desert, caused outrage in the Islamic world, but the Taya government denied that the deal had been negotiated. Taya and his ministers remained active, however, in diplomatic and economic partnership trips with various Maghreb Union member nations Morocco and Tunisia.