US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived Wednesday in Algeria, a Moscow ally and major gas producer that has faced calls to boost exports to Europe after prices soared following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Blinken touched down at Boumediene Airport and headed to meet Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra on his first visit as top US diplomat to the North African country.
He had flown in from Algeria’s arch-rival Morocco, which in 2020 normalized ties with Israel under a deal that sparked renewed tensions over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
Relations between Washington and Algiers have soured since the deal struck under then-President Donald Trump.
At time, the Trump administration recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the phosphate-rich desert territory, where Algeria has long backed the Polisario independence movement.
Blinken was to spend six hours in Algeria, including a working lunch with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
He may use the trip to urge Algeria to reopen a pipeline that carried Algerian natural gas through Moroccan territory to Spain, to help European countries reduce their energy dependence on Russia.
The GME pipeline closed last year after Algiers declined to renew a 25-year export deal following a spike in tensions.
Algerian media reported this month that the government had rejected a request by Blinken’s deputy Wendy Sherman to re-open the conduit.
State department official Yael Lempert said Blinken was to “discuss regional security and stability, commercial cooperation and advancing human rights and fundamental freedom.”
In Morocco on Tuesday, Blinken reiterated support for a Moroccan autonomy plan for the Western Sahara, which he described as “serious, credible and realistic.”
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