Algeria Cuts Diplomatic Ties With Morocco as Tensions Build
(Bloomberg) -- Algeria cut diplomatic ties with Morocco, citing what it claimed were hostile acts, plunging decades of difficult relations between the North African neighbors to their lowest point since the 1970s.
Algerian Foreign Affairs Minister Ramtane Lamamra, announcing the move Tuesday in a televised press conference, laid out a litany of grievances going back decades, which include alleged Moroccan support for separatists in Algeria and a dispute over the Western Sahara region that Morocco claims. He also cited more recent causes for strain, including allegations of espionage and Morocco’s new ties with Israel.
The move risks escalating tensions in a region already mired in disarray. Algeria’s neighbor, Tunisia, is in the midst of an internal political power fight while Libya is struggling for stability as part of a U.N.-backed push to end nearly a decade of fighting in the OPEC member.
The rift between two key allies of the West may also have implications for a broader fight against terrorism in the region. And it could complicate a pact allowing Algeria to transport gas to Europe via Morocco in exchange for intake that mostly feeds Moroccan gas-fired power plants. The agreement is scheduled to expire in October.
Morocco has consistently carried out “unfriendly, hostile and despicable acts” since Algeria’s 1962 independence, Lamamra said, according to the state-run APS news agency.
He also accused Morocco of supporting two groups Algeria has blamed for devastating wildfires in the country that left at least 90 dead, and of using the Pegasus spyware program, designed by an Israeli company, to spy on its officials.
Morocco’s Foreign Ministry, in a statement, said it “regrets a completely unjustified, but expected decision.” It added that it “categorically rejects the fallacious, even absurd, pretexts underlying” Algeria’s decision to sever diplomatic ties.
Consular services would remain for nationals of either side, the Algerian minister said.
Lamamra, discussing the decision, cited a trip to Morocco by Israel’s foreign minister this month in which the visiting diplomat said Algeria was developing ties with Iran and opposed Israel’s admission to the African Union as an observer. Morocco joined the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Bahrain in striking normalization deals with Israel during the last year of Donald Trump’s presidency.
An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss diplomatic matters, said Algeria’s accusations were baseless. What’s important are the very good relations between Israel and Morocco, the official said
But the roots of the ill will run deeper. Among other flashpoints, Algeria has provided a home for years for a movement seeking independence in the Western Sahara region that’s claimed in full by Morocco. The border separating the nations has been closed since 1995.
“Algeria refuses to submit to unacceptable behaviors and actions” in its relationship with Morocco, Lamamra said.
The decision to cut ties comes a week after Algerian President Abdelmajid Tebboune, in a meeting with the country’s High Security Council, “stressed that the incessant hostile acts perpetrated by Morocco against Algeria, have required the review of relations,” APS said.
Algeria exports natural gas to southern Europe through three pipelines under the Mediterranean Sea. One of those -- the Maghreb-Europe pipeline -- enters Spain via Morocco.
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