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Algeria: Morocco used gas pipeline as a bargaining chip in Western Sahara issue

A foreign delegation visits on December 14, 2008 the Krechba gas treatment plant, about 1,200 km (746 miles) south of Algiers. The In Salah gas project, a four-year old venture grouping energy majors Sonatrach of Algeria, BP of Britain and Statoil of Norway, is described by its managers as the world's first and largest onshore carbon capture and sequestration scheme. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is due to meet on December 17, 2008 in the Algerian city of Oran. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo by STR / AFP) (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)
A foreign delegation visits on December 14, 2008 the Krechba gas treatment plant, about 1,200 km south of Algiers [STR/AFP via Getty Images]

Algeria stopped using the Maghreb–Europe Gas Pipeline to supply Spain with gas as a result of the "aggressive practices of the Kingdom of Morocco", media sources have quoted officials saying.

The contract for the use of the pipeline ended on 31 October with Algeria switching to the Medgaz undersea pipeline, which does not pass-through Morocco.

Algeria's special envoy in charge of the Morocco and Western Sahara file, Amar Belani, said "the real reasons for stopping the gas pipeline to Morocco are that Algeria considered it a project of Maghreb cooperation, while the Moroccan regime used it to blackmail."

"This gas pipeline was a bet on the future, a symbol of our true commitment to the aspirations of the Maghreb peoples. It was a tangible and realistic expression of our deep conviction regarding the importance of regional cooperation and how valuable these completed infrastructures are for Maghreb cooperation."

"Unfortunately, Morocco was not up to the level … as it chose to use it as a bargaining card and then linked it to the issue of Western Sahara, which Morocco illegally occupies," he explained.

"In the end, hostilities will have a price."

Under the previous agreement, Rabat received royalties worth 0.5 billion cubic metres of gas, which made up half the country's consumption.

Morocco: Algeria's use of alternative gas pipeline will not affect our supplies

Morocco has been in conflict with the Algeria-backed separatist Polisario group over the Western Sahara since 1975, after the Spanish occupation ended. It turned into an armed confrontation that lasted until 1991 and ended with the signing of a ceasefire agreement.

Rabat insists on its right to govern the region, but proposed autonomous rule in the Western Sahara under its sovereignty, but the Polisario Front wants a referendum to let the people determine the future of the region. Algeria has been supporting the Front's proposal and hosts refugees from the region.

The 1991 ceasefire came to an end last year after Morocco resumed military operations in the El Guergarat crossing, a buffer zone between the territory claimed by the state of Morocco and the self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which the Polisario said was a provocation.

By launching the operation, Morocco "seriously undermined not only the ceasefire and related military agreements but also any chances of achieving a peaceful and lasting solution to the decolonization question of the Western Sahara," Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front, said in a letter to the UN.

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AfricaAlgeriaEurope & RussiaMoroccoNewsSpain
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