ALGIERS: Algeria’s Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra said Tuesday that his country has severed diplomatic relations with Morocco due to “hostile actions”, following months of resurgent tensions between the North African rivals. The countries have long accused one another of backing opposition movements as proxies, with Algeria’s support for separatists in the disputed region of Western Sahara a particular bone of contention for Morocco.
“Algeria has decided to cut diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Morocco from today,” Lamamra announced during a press conference. “History has shown… Morocco has never stopped carrying out hostile actions against Algeria,” he added. In a statement later Tuesday, Morocco’s foreign ministry said Algiers’ move was “completely unjustified” but “expected given the logic of escalation seen in recent weeks”. Rabat added that the decision to cut ties was based on “false, even absurd pretexts”. The rupture followed a review of bilateral relations announced by Algeria last week as it alleged its neighbor was complicit in deadly forest fires that ravaged the country’s north.
Meanwhile, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Arab League and Saudi Arabia called for “dialogue” yesterday to resolve arguments between neighboring Algeria and Morocco. The OIC “called for dialogue to resolve any possible differences”, a statement from the Jeddah-based organization said. Saudi Arabia called on both nations “to prioritize dialogue” to help “achieve security and stability,” a foreign ministry statement read.
Lamamra accused Morocco’s leaders of “responsibility for repeated crises” and behavior that has “led to conflict instead of integration” in North Africa. Late last month, Morocco’s King Mohamed VI deplored the tensions between the two countries, and invited Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune “to make wisdom prevail” and “to work in unison for the development of relations” between the two countries.
But Algeria’s forest fires, which broke out on August 9 amid a blistering heatwave, burned tens of thousands of hectares of forest and killed at least 90 people, including more than 30 soldiers, further stoking tensions. While critics say Algerian authorities failed to prepare for the blazes, Tebboune declared most of the fires were of “criminal” origin.
Algerian authorities have blamed the independence movement of the mainly Berber region of Kabylie extending along the Mediterranean coast east of the capital. Algiers has accused Rabat of backing the separatists. “The Moroccan provocation reached its climax when a Moroccan delegate to the United Nations demanded the independence of the people of the Kabylie region,” Lamamra said Tuesday. Last month, Algeria recalled its ambassador to Rabat for consultations after Morocco’s envoy to the United Nations, Omar Hilale, expressed support for self-determination in that region.
At the time, Algeria’s foreign ministry said Morocco thus “publicly and explicitly supports an alleged right to self-determination of the Kabylie people”. Algerian authorities have also accused the Movement for Self-determination of Kabylie (MAK) of involvement in lynching a man falsely accused of arson during the recent forest fires, an incident that sparked outrage. Algeria last week accused Morocco of supporting the group, which it classifies as a “terrorist organization”.
“The incessant hostile acts carried out by Morocco against Algeria have necessitated the review of relations between the two countries,” the presidency had said. It also said there would be an “intensification of security controls on the western borders” with Morocco. The border between Algeria and Morocco has been closed since 1994. Mohamed, a Moroccan bus driver, called Algeria’s latest move “a bad decision”.
“It’s like cutting ties with your next-door neighbor,” he told AFP.The two North African countries along with Tunisia were united, he added, saying “there are no differences, this happens between governments”. Algeria’s foreign minister also accused Morocco of leading “a media war… against Algeria, its people and its leaders”.
But Lamamra also said consular assistance to citizens of both countries would not be affected. Relations between Algiers and Rabat have been fraught in past decades, especially over the flashpoint issue of the disputed Western Sahara. Morocco considers the former Spanish colony an integral part of its kingdom, but Algeria has backed the Polisario movement which seeks independence there. A normalization deal between Morocco and the Zionist entity in December triggered fresh tensions between Rabat and Algiers because the US recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara as part of the accord. – AFP