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Spain does not want to 'fuel futile differences' with Algeria

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares in Madrid, Spain on 7 February 2022. [Şenhan Bolelli - Anadolu Agency]
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares in Madrid, Spain on 7 February 2022. [Şenhan Bolelli - Anadolu Agency]

The Spanish Foreign Minister yesterday said that he "does not want to fuel futile differences" with Algeria after Madrid changed its position regarding the Western Sahara and backed Morocco's proposal to grant the Western Sahara autonomy under its sovereignty.

"I will not fuel futile differences, but Spain has taken a sovereign decision within the framework of international law and there is nothing else to be added," said José Manuel Albares.

On Saturday, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune described the change in Spain's position on the Western Sahara as "morally and historically unacceptable."

Tebboune said that Algeria "has good relations with Spain", but the recent position of the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on the Saharan cause "changed everything."

"We will not interfere in Spain's internal affairs, but Algeria, as an observer state in the Western Sahara file and the United Nations as well, considers Spain as the power that manages the region as long as a solution for this conflict is not reached," Tebboune added.

"What I appreciate among all these statements is the full guarantee to supply Spain with the Algerian gas and respecting of international contracts," Albares said.

READ: Algeria to continue gas supply to Spain despite Western Sahara row

About a quarter of Spain's gas needs are imported from Algeria.

On 18 March, Madrid announced its support for Morocco's self-governance plan for Western Sahara, it considered the plan as the "most serious, realistic and credible basis for resolving the conflict."

Algeria denounced the "shift" in Madrid's position and recalled its ambassador to Spain the next day.

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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