A breakthrough in the strained relations between Algeria and Spain is looming after reports that Algiers plans to send a new ambassador to Madrid, ending a 19-month diplomatic crisis.
In March, Algeria recalled its ambassador from Madrid after the latter backed Morocco’s plan giving autonomy to the former Spanish colony to solve the Western Sahara conflict.
Senior Algerian political sources said the two countries are in the process of resolving their crisis, adding that their relations are about to return to normal.
Last year, Algeria decided to suspend foreign trade in products and services with Spain and it suspended a 20-year-old friendship treaty with Spain that committed the two sides to cooperation in controlling migration flows.
Algeria has already announced that it is only willing to resume foreign trade with Spain and restore the 20-year-old friendship treaty if Madrid again adopts a neutral stance towards the Sahara conflict.
The same sources did not clarify whether this condition had been fulfilled now that the two countries moved to restore their diplomatic relations.
Meanwhile, Spain’s El Confidencial newspaper wrote on Thursday that Algeria is ready to re-establishing full diplomatic relations with the European country 19 months after it has summoned Said Moussi, its ambassador to Spain, back for consultations over Madrid’s comments on Western Sahara.
Two months after this decision, Algeria has selected Moussi as its new ambassador to France, keeping the post of ambassador in Madrid vacant.
But in recent days, the Algerian authorities have announced some reshuffle in the diplomatic corps, most notably the appointment of former foreign minister Sabri Boukadoum as ambassador to Washington.
As part of this new diplomatic rearrangement, sources said former ambassador to Guinea, Abdel Fattah Daghmoum, has been appointed as the new ambassador to Madrid.
Head of Algerian-Spanish Circle of Commerce and Industry (CCIAE) Djamal Eddine Bouabdallah told media outlets that the breakthrough in Spanish-Algerian relations is due to contacts made by delegations of the two countries on the sidelines of their participation in the meetings of UN General Assembly in New York last September.
He said a gradual restoration of relations between the two countries is on the way, adding that several factors have contributed positively to this progress.
Government reports said that Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’ speech at the United Nations on September 22 was a milestone for Algeria, and “a significant change of Madrid’s last position on the Sahara issue.”
Sanchez said his country supports a “mutually acceptable political solution” regarding Western Sahara.
“We fully support the work of the UN Secretary Special Envoy, work that we deem to be absolutely crucial,” Sanchez said during his speech to the United Nations General Assembly.
He added, “Spain will also continue to support the Sahrawi population in the refugee camps as it always has done, as the main international donor of humanitarian assistance in this context.”
Algerians appreciated the fact that Sanchez spoke of seeking a solution to the Sahara conflict without mentioning the Moroccan proposal for autonomy.
Also, reports said that Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune had told his ministers last September that Spain “began to return to the European position regarding the Sahara issue,” and which “supports the United Nations’ efforts in favor of a political process that will help reach a just and lasting political solution acceptable to all parties.”
The rift in relations between the two Mediterranean neighbors already caused huge losses to institutions and businessmen. Since the beginning of the crisis until mid-2023, the losses are estimated by activists in the field of export and import at about one billion euros.
This also resulted in a severe shortage of several materials and goods in the Algerian market, and has affected many sectors in Spain, including the food industry and livestock meat, which represent important proportions of the turnover of Spanish companies with the Algerian market.
With the exception of gas supplies linked to long-term contracts between both countries, Algeria froze all economic exchanges with Spain, whose exports to Algeria before the political crisis was worth about 3 billion euros.