Its North African neighbors have been embroiled in a bitter rivalry over the disputed territory of Western Sahara for decades.
Algeria’s relations with Morocco have reached “the point of no return”, according to Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, the latest evidence of the two countries’ continued poor relationship, which broke off relations in 2021.
In an interview with Al Jazeera on Tuesday, Tebboune said that while he regretted deteriorating relations between Algeria and its neighbor, he blamed Morocco for the current state of affairs.
“We have practically reached the point of no return,” said Tebboune, who became president in 2019 after the resignation of former leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika. “Our position is a reaction (to Morocco’s actions), we were never the ones who started (the problem).”
The North African countries have been embroiled in a bitter rivalry over the disputed territory of Western Sahara for decades. Algiers supports the armed Polisario movement seeking independence from Western Sahara, an area Rabat claims as its own.
The Polisario separatists took up arms in the 1970s and continued to demand an independence referendum based on a 1991 ceasefire agreement.
Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra announced the severance of diplomatic relations in August 2021, following rising tensions over the dispute.
Normalization with Israel
In addition to disagreements over Western Sahara, Algeria and Morocco diverge in their position towards Israel.
In his interview, Tebboune emphasized his country’s support for Palestine and said that Algeria viewed the issue as a domestic one.
Algeria does not recognize Israel, while Morocco and Israel agreed to normalize relations in a deal brokered in December 2020 with the help of the United States.
As part of the agreement, then-US President Donald Trump agreed to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara. Morocco has since demanded that Israel take that step before Rabat opens an embassy in Tel Aviv.
Tebboune also directed his anger at Spain in the interview, which he accused of being biased towards Morocco.
He added that the Spanish government had forgotten its role as a former colonial power in Western Sahara and that it still had a responsibility to solve the problem.
Western Sahara was a Spanish colony until 1975. Morocco then took control of the vast expanse of desert on Africa’s Atlantic coast, which is slightly larger than the United Kingdom, in a move not recognized internationally.
International recognition of its control over Western Sahara is an important goal for the Moroccan government, which left the African Union in 1984 in protest of the organization’s recognition of the Polisario. Morocco only rejoined the continental body in 2016.
Spain has taken a neutral stance on the issue for decades, but in March last year Madrid supported a 2007 proposal by Morocco to grant autonomy to Western Sahara under its sovereignty. long-running conflict.
Algeria responded by recalling its ambassador from Madrid in protest and, a few months later, suspending a two-decade-old friendship treaty with Spain.