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EU urges Algeria to reverse split with Spain

Published: Updated:

The European Union on Thursday urged Algeria to reverse a decision to suspend its cooperation treaty with EU member Spain, urging dialogue to resolve the dispute.

Algeria has long backed the Polisario movement which is seeking independence for the Western Sahara region, claimed by Algiers’ neighbor and rival Morocco.

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In March, Spain publicly recognized Morocco’s plan to grant the region autonomy rather than full independence, resolving a spat with Rabat but angering Algeria in turn.

On Wednesday, Algeria suspended its 2002 friendship treaty with Spain, threatening trade ties, including supplies of Algerian natural gas.

This in turn could complicate broader EU ties with Algeria, and EU foreign affairs spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said Brussels was “extremely concerned.”

“We would ask the Algerian party to take another look at that decision,” she said, urging Algiers and Madrid to work through diplomatic channels to resolve the dispute.

Morocco controls 80 percent of the Western Sahara.

The rest is held by Polisario, which fought a 15-year war with Morocco after Spanish forces withdrew in 1975 and wants a referendum on independence.

Morocco has offered limited autonomy but insists the phosphate and fisheries-rich enclave must remain under its sovereignty.

Spain officially endorsed that position in March to help resolve a year-long diplomatic dispute sparked by a visit by Polisario leader Brahim Ghali to Spain for treatment for COVID-19.

Weeks after his hospitalization, Moroccan border forces looked the other way as more than 10,000 migrants surged into Spain’s tiny North African enclave of Ceuta.

In April, Sanchez made an official visit to Morocco to patch up ties after his government backed Rabat’s 2007 autonomy plan.

Algiers said Wednesday that Madrid had thereby “given its full support to an illegal and illegitimate formula ... advocated by the occupying power.”

Spain’s position is complicated because while it shares borders and strong economic ties with Morocco, it also depends partly on Algeria for natural gas.

Read more:

Algeria suspends treaty of friendship and cooperation with Spain

Algeria to halt gas exports to Spain via Morocco

Algeria urges Morocco to quit Western Sahara buffer zone

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