Algeria says Morocco responsible for diplomatic impasse

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Algeria’s foreign minister said Sunday that Morocco had caused a diplomatic impasse over the way it responded after his country’s flag was torn down from its consulate in Casablanca.

“The Moroccan authorities know exactly what they need to do to get out of this impasse because they got themself into the impasse,” said Ramtane Lamamra at a news conference in Algiers.

On November 1, at a demonstration over disputed Western Sahara in front of Algiers’ mission, a young Moroccan tore the Algerian flag down.

The incident sparked anger in Algiers, and Moroccan authorities said they had been “firm” with the perpetrator, but denied they had apologised.

The protester was arrested, and is due to be tried for the incident on November 21, according to Moroccan weekly Tel Quel.

But Lamamra said it was an “insult” that “this individual who committed this double crime is welcomed as a hero in certain circles.”

Dozens of people had gathered outside the consulate in Morocco’s economic capital to protest comments by Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Western Sahara.

In a speech read out in Bouteflika’s name at a meeting in Abuja, he said an international mechanism to monitor human rights in Western Sahara was needed “more than ever”.

Rabat in protest recalled its ambassador to Algiers.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI also reacted angrily to the comments, saying his country would not be lectured to, “particularly by those who systematically trample on human rights”, he said, in a clear allusion to Bouteflika.

Algiers has not responded to the comment, and on Sunday, Lamamra said: “In diplomacy, silence can be very eloquent.”

The spat was the latest between the North African neighbors whose decades-old rivalry centers on the disputed territory, annexed by Morocco in 1975 in a move never recognized by the international community.

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