Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita has insisted that the decision to recall his country’s consul from Oran in Algeria was taken by the government in Rabat alone. He rejected statements from Algeria which suggest otherwise.
Consul Aherdane Boutahar is, according to Algerian spokesman Mohand Oussaid Belaid, a “Moroccan intelligence official” who left Algeria “at the request of the Algerian government.” Algiers announced the consul’s departure on Tuesday, at its request, because of a statement made by Boutahar that has created a crisis between the two countries.
The issue kicked off last month, when Moroccan Ambassador Hassan Abdelkhalek was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Algiers in protest at a video circulated widely on social media in which the consul told Moroccans stranded in Algeria due to coronavirus travel restrictions that they should still leave because, “You know that we are in an enemy country.” Belaid described this as “inexcusable” conduct by the consul.
Foreign Minister Bourita said that Morocco is taking the official’s statements with “utmost seriousness” and expressed its “deepest dissatisfaction with the allegations made by a representative of an institution that is supposed to show a sense of good judgment and restraint.” He stressed that the consul is one of his ministry’s employees with a career that extends over 28 years, including several positions abroad.” Boutahar has always performed his duties in a completely appropriate and professional manner, he pointed out.
“The Kingdom questions the real motives behind this new escalation and Algeria’s ongoing willingness to nurture mistrust that transgresses all the rules of good neighbourliness,” added Bourita. “We have not received any request from the Algerian authorities to summon our consul in Oran, who was recalled on our own initiative.”
While Algerian spokesman Belaid insisted that the consul left the country at Algeria’s request, he said that this matter of diplomatic relations between the two countries is now closed. “We are working to raise the level of our exchanges in order to preserve the brotherly ties between the Algerian and Moroccan peoples.”
Relations between Algeria and Morocco have been blocked for decades due to the ongoing conflict between the Kingdom and the Polisario Front over the Western Sahara. The borders between the North African neighbours have been closed since 1994.