by Mustapha Ajbaili
by Mustapha Ajbaili
Algerian authorities have agreed to briefly re-open borders with Morocco to allow for the passage of Moroccan cyclists in a further sign of a thaw in relations between the two North African countries, according to media reports.
The London-based Asharq al-Awsat quoted a judge in the Algerian border town of Maghnia as saying that preparations were underway to open a major border crossing, known as Zouj Bghal, to allow for the passage of Moroccan cyclists competing in the 25th anniversary of a cycling tour.
The judge added that the court in Maghnia received “political orders from the [Algerian] government” to take necessary administrative and security procedures to facilitate the passage of the Moroccan cyclists.
Referring to government sources in the province of Tlemcen, the judge said Algerian authorities were opening the borders only for a day and that too in response to a request from the Moroccan government.
The borders between the countries have been shut since 1994.
Morocco has repeatedly called on Algeria to re-open the borders closed for more than 17 years to promote trade and business.
Algeria has repeatedly dismissed Moroccan calls and said any opening of the borders has to be part of a comprehensive deal that includes a solution to the Western Sahara conflict. Algeria has long supported the cession of Western Sahara from Morocco.
In 1994, Morocco accused Algerian authorities of planning a hotel bombing that killed two Spanish tourists in the city of Marrakesh. Soon thereafter, Moroccan authorities placed visa requirement on Algerians wishing to travel to Morocco.
Algeria responded by slapping visa requirement on Moroccans and moved to close the borders with its neighboring kingdom.
However, in recent years, challenges of terrorism posed by the Al-Qaeda branch in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the uprisings in neighboring Tunisia and Libya last year have encouraged cooperation between the two countries.
Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci, in a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, noted “the positive developments” in relations with Morocco. Medelci said that the exchange of ministerial visits has helped warm up cooperation with the Moroccan government.