Algeria’s ability to unite the Arab world is being questioned as talk revolves around the possible postponement of the Arab Summit scheduled to be held in Algiers in November, Al-Quds Al-Arabi has reported. The Algerian government resents the postponement campaign, and will not bow to pressure. Instead, it insists that it will go ahead with making the arrangements for the summit in coordination with the Secretary-General of the Arab League. Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra confirmed to journalists that Algeria is ready to hold the Arab Summit, while speaking on the fringe of a regular session of the parliament in Algiers.
Statements about the postponement of the summit were issued by the Egyptian government, and repeated by diplomats requesting anonymity. According to reports in several Arab newspapers and media sites, they claim that there are difficulties in organising the summit. Some suggest postponing the summit due to the differences in the agenda and regional governments’ unwillingness to meet the Algerians due to political differences.
Among the latter are Algeria’s good relationship with Iran and not standing with the Gulf States against Tehran; the wish to see Syria back in the Arab League; and Algeria’s damaged relationship with Morocco. A newer issue is Algeria’s strong relationship with Ethiopia and its tendency to sign cooperation agreements with Addis Ababa, which Egypt believes is detrimental to its own interests in the dispute with Ethiopia over access to water from the River Nile.
Questions have emerged about holding the Arab summit following the visit of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to Algeria at the end of last month. According to the Algerians, Ahmed was there to discuss African coordination, and it was agreed to expand cooperation between Algeria and Ethiopia by boosting trade, especially in the food industries, pharmaceuticals, training and higher education, as well as cooperating in scientific research.
The chill in Algerian-Egyptian relations has been reported for some time. Algeria is presumed to favour Ethiopia over the Grand Renaissance Dam on the Nile, based on a meeting between the Minister of Water Resources and the Ethiopian Ambassador to Algeria in May. However, a meeting of this kind is more about protocol than anything else, and cannot result in any formal agreement, according to Algerian diplomatic tradition.
Officially, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s visit to Cairo in January reaffirmed in a joint declaration that Algeria and Egypt “agreed on the necessity to reach a binding legal agreement regulating the process of filling and operating the Renaissance Dam in a way that meets the interests of the three countries — Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia — in a just and equitable manner.”
Algeria had sought to mediate in this issue last year through Lamamra, who visited the three countries during the crisis about filling the reservoir. However, his efforts were disrupted by the complexities of the case and the insistence of each government to hold fast to its position.
According to Nasser Hamdaouche of the Movement of Society for Peace, the postponement of the Arab Summit is a form of “blackmail” against Algeria. “There is still a campaign to blackmail Algeria about its principled positions regarding some contentious cases with some Arab countries, such as the issue of normalisation [with Israel], the position on the [Palestinian] resistance, and the dispute with Morocco over Western Sahara,” the former MP told Al-Quds Al-Arabi. “Recently, a dispute with Egypt has emerged regarding the relationship between Algeria and Ethiopia, as well as Algeria’s endeavour to reunite the Arab countries, such as its attempts to return Syria to the Arab League, the non-acceptance by some Arab countries of Algeria’s relationship with Iran, and Algeria’s approach to resolving the Libyan crisis.”