The closure of the Moroccan embassy in Algeria has been confirmed by AFP sources. The ambassador and all staff will move to Rabat according to plan. The consulates general in Algeria, Oran and Sidi-Bel-Abbès should continue to operate.
Already on Tuesday, Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtan Lamamra announced that the country was severing diplomatic relations with Morocco. “The Kingdom of Morocco has never given up its hostile activities against Algeria,” Lamamra said.
Following the Algerian decision, Morocco regretted the move and called it unfounded. However, local diplomacy has admitted that it corresponds to the logic of escalating tensions from recent weeks.
“The Kingdom of Morocco will remain a credible and loyal partner of the Algerian people and will continue to work responsibly to develop healthy and fruitful relations in the Maghreb. Morocco categorically rejects the deceptive and absurd pretexts behind the decision, “the foreign ministry wrote in a statement.
Algiers indicated on Thursday that it could end gas supplies to Morocco after the current contract expires in October. Rabat provides supplies through a gas pipeline that connects Algeria with Spain through Morocco. But Algeria can rely on a second pipeline that does not run through Morocco – and it is through it that the North African country would like to take all its Spanish gas reserves from October.
Symbolic and real fires
Tensions between the two countries increased in early August, when the Moroccan ambassador to the UN said that residents of the historic region of Kabylia, located in northeastern Algeria and where a minority of Berbers live, have the right to self-determination. Subsequently, Algiers called his ambassador from Rabat for consultations.
Algeria also accused a Kabatian separatist group of being involved in setting up devastating fires in Morocco at the beginning of August, with the support of Morocco. At least ninety people have died in the country’s flames.
According to Algiers, one of the disputes burdening relations is the establishment of diplomatic relations between Rabat and Israel. Israeli Foreign Minister Jair Lapid recently visited the North African country. The United States has recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara by normalizing relations with Israel.
Algeria also condemned “systematic espionage” by Morocco. He points to allegations that the Moroccan security services used it Israeli Pegasus spy system to track Algerian citizens and officials. Rabat definitely denies this.
Israeli diplomats called relations with Morocco very good and allegations made by Algeria unfounded. “Algeria should focus on its own problems, especially serious economic difficulties, instead of trying to harm its neighbor and involve Israel in its disputes,” the AFP statement said.
However, the roots of tense relations between the two countries go back to the end of the 1970s. In 1976, the Polisario Front in Western Sahara declared the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), which was supported by Algeria. At that time, Rabat severed diplomatic relations with Algeria, and the countries did not resume them until they were partially liberated in 1988.
Disputes over Western Sahara flared up again in the early 1990s, leading to the closure of the land border between Algeria and Morocco in 1994. In recent years, the leaders of both states have called several times for improved neighborly relations. However, the last official visit of prominent politicians dates back to 2012 and the borders remain closed.