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Algeria doubts Morocco's eagerness to engage in dialogue and resolve differences

November 9, 2018 at 4:55 am

Moroccan King Mohammed VI attends the assembly of the African Union (AU), 2 February 2017 [Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu]

Algeria is still silent about the invitation made by Mohammed VI of Morocco, four days ago, to engage in “mutual dialogue in order to solve problems between both sides.” On the other hand, Algerian press described such call as “a manoeuvre,” “a change of tone,” and “rhetoric of appeasement.”

In a speech on Tuesday, King Mohammed VI described the relations between the two countries as “out of the ordinary and unacceptable,” expressing his country’s readiness to undergo a “direct and frank dialogue with Algeria to overcome situational and substantive differences that hinder the development of relations between both neighbouring countries.”

The Moroccan king suggested a mechanism “that could constitute a practical framework for cooperation on various shared issues, particularly about the investment of opportunities and developmental potentials in the Maghreb region.” Such mechanism “will contribute to enhancing mutual coordination and consultation to meet regional and international challenges, especially, counter-terrorism strategies and immigration.”

Official Algerian media ignored the king’s speech in the course of its daily coverage of various international events, while private newspapers covered Morocco’s initiative from different angles of description.

King Mohammed: Morocco, Algeria tensions are unreasonable

Former Communications Minister Abdelaziz Rahabi ruled out that Algerian authorities would respond to such message, which is mainly “directed for domestic and international public opinion.” Rahabi told A-Khabar on Thursday: “I believe that the occasion during which this speech was delivered and the messages Morocco intended to transmit to Algeria did not amount to an acceptable level. The situation would have been different if such address was maintained on the occasion of the Throne Day. ”

Rahabi added that “the speech came on the eve of the start of negotiations with the Polisario Front under the auspices of the United Nations and the presence of Algeria and Mauritania as observers. I think that conveying the message in the Throne Day would have been an explicit denominator for Morocco’s good intentions on the Western Sahara issue”.

The headline of the French Algerian newspaper, Al-Watan, in its latest issue, was a question: “Is it the King of Morocco’s Latest manoeuvre?” The newspaper was curious about the background of such unusual “appeasement” speech, and the time Mohamed VI has chosen to deliver his message about the coming negotiations with the Polisario Front in Geneva. The newspaper asked if the king of Morocco planned to present Algeria as the cause of the crisis?

EShorouk newspaper stated that “Morocco has never explicitly called for overcoming the so-called differences between both countries, although Algeria denies the existence of a dispute with Rabat in the first place,” asserting that “as for the Western Sahara conflict, Algeria does not consider itself a part of the conflict, but rather as an observer. Similarly, the United Nations has clearly defined the parties to the conflict, namely, Morocco and the Polisario”.

Polisario troops in Western Sahara [Defensionem/Facebook]

Two years ago Prime Minister, Abdelmalek Sellal expressed, on behalf of Algeria, that his country is willing to open a comprehensive dialogue with Morocco on controversial problems, but the issue remained stalled. At that time, Sellal said that “Morocco is a neighbouring and allying country. We have halting differences of perspectives, as Algeria prefers to engage in a comprehensive approach in which issues are discussed in a direct dialogue, especially as it is a matter of a specific problematic. Our country remains fully prepared to settle such issues seriously and peacefully.”  Thus, he pointed out that such demarche is convenient so that “both countries will be able to devote mutual efforts to the supreme task of building the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) as our peoples aspire to.”

Read: Morocco King congratulates Algeria on ‘Revolution Day’

In 1994, Algeria closed its land border with Morocco after Rabat’s accusations of an Algerian terrorist attack on Spanish tourists in Marrakesh and the imposition of visas on Algerians. As such, Algerian authorities have rejected several previous calls from its Moroccan counterpart to reopen the border, only on several conditions.

A statement issued by the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in mid-2013 outlined these conditions as the following: “Putting an end to the defamation campaign led by Moroccan official and non-official circles against Algeria, cooperating sincerely, effectively, and successfully to stop the flow of drugs and smuggling coming from Morocco. Nonetheless, Morocco is required to respect the position of the Algerian government regarding the Western Sahara issue, which Algeria considers as a matter of ending colonialism and work on settling the UN, by international law. ”

The Western Sahara file remains the main cause of the tension between Algeria and Morocco, where the latter accuses its eastern neighbour of supporting the Polisario Front and proposes an autonomous rule in Western Sahara. Algeria has revealed in multiple occasions its support of a UN referendum to determine the fate of the region especially that the Algerian authorities are sheltering displaced immigrants fleeing their homeland after Rabat controlled the area by the end of the Spanish occupation in 1975.