| 21 May 2024, Tuesday |

Algeria may take more steps against Morocco, official says

After cutting off relations and closing airspace, Algeria may escalate its dispute with Morocco and take more steps, a senior Algerian diplomat said today.

“The adoption of additional measures cannot be ruled out,” Amar Belani, the Foreign Ministry official responsible for Maghreb countries, told Reuters without saying what other measures it may consider.

Relations between the North African neighbours have been bad for decades and their border has been closed since 1994, but have deteriorated since a dispute over the territory of Western Sahara blew up again last year.

Morocco regards Western Sahara as its territory, but the Algeria-backed Polisario Front movement seeks the region’s independence.

Last year Polisario said it was resuming an armed struggle after decades of truce and the United States acknowledged Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara in return for Rabat boosting ties with the occupation state of Israel.

A senior Moroccan diplomat has backed calls for the self-determination of Algeria’s Kabylie region, something Algiers has called unacceptable interference in its internal affairs.

Algiers also accused Rabat of backing MAK, a separatist group that the government has declared a terrorist organisation. Authorities blame the group for devastating wildfires, mainly in Kabylie, that killed at least 65 people. MAK has denied the accusations.

On 24 August Algeria cut off diplomatic ties with Morocco, citing the alleged support for MAK, as well as Western Sahara and other issues.

Morocco said in response that Algeria was unjustified in cutting ties and its arguments were “fallacious and even absurd”.

Moroccan King Mohammed has called for borders to reopen and ties to improve, and offered to help Algeria deal with its wildfires, to which Algeria did not respond.

Algeria has indicated it would not renew a gas supply contract and on Wednesday said it was closing its airspace to all Moroccan flights, actions that Moroccan sources have said will have little practical impact.

“Algeria will show extreme vigilance and absolute firmness for the protection of its national territory,” Belani told Reuters.