By Majid Morceli
By Majid Morceli
San Francisco – The question on everyone’s mind is: is Algeria having a change of heart?
Since King Mohamed VI came to the throne in 1999, Morocco has extended the olive branch to Algeria, but time and time again the Algerian regime has refused Morocco’s offer.
When that was not enough, the regime set three impossible conditions to even start negotiating with Morocco. These conditions were that Morocco must:
- Put a stop to what they call a “smear campaign” in the Moroccan media against Algeria
- Show true intentions to come up with a formula to fight the alleged flow of drugs into Algeria
- Recognize Algeria’s non-negotiable and unwavering position on the Western Sahara.
This week and for the first time, we hear the Secretary General of the of National Front of Liberation (FLN) Amar Saidani say in an interview that escalation would not benefit Morocco nor Algeria, and he refused to get pushed by the Algerian reporter to go on a tirade against Morocco’s king.
What’s even more surprising is the Algerian foreign minister, who only a few days ago described the king’s speech as “a bet on the worse” before adding that Algeria does not practice “Megaphone Diplomacy”.
Today in interview to Al Arabiya, the same minister said, “Algeria neither supports nor reject the autonomy proposal proposed by Morocco to the Polisario Front”. This is unprecedented.
Is change really taking place, or are we reading too much into the remarks made by these Algerian officials?
Many think that Morocco’s support for the Kabylie at the United Nations has pushed the leaders of Algeria to soften their stance against Morocco. While the new Moroccan stance may have had some weight, it is not the determining factor.
I believe that the deterioration of the Algerian economy is one of the main reasons for this new behavior. As we know, Algeria spends millions of dollars to keep the Polisario alive, and with the price of oil down 60 percent, Algeria can no longer afford to spend a great deal of money of that they no longer possess on the Polisario when thousands of Algerians are at risk of losing their jobs. Perhaps they finally have finally realized that after 40 years of being unable to remove Morocco from its Sahara, the time has come to look into peace.
I believe that the firing of the DRS chief and some in the military, the close relationship between Said Bouteflika, who is believed to be the de-facto decision-maker behind the scenes, General Ahmed Gaïd Salah, and Amar Saidani- who has apparently been asked to test the water and, thus, has used a reconciliatory tone toward Morocco- may very well be the reason we are witnessing new behavior from Algeria. It could also be that these leaders no longer believe that it is in Algeria’s interest to continue on fighting a losing battle, which might be a naïve assumption on my part.
Lakhdar Brahimi, a close friend of the Bouteflika family and a widely respected statesman, may have been asked to clear the air when he recently visited Morocco, and we now see the outcome of his recent visit.
Mr. Brahimi has a lot of respect for Morocco and he has praised it on more than one occasion for being able to deal wisely with the Arab Spring.
What we are witnessing is perhaps the beginning of a new era in the Maghreb. Morocco should quickly reciprocate and try once again to make a conciliatory gesture toward Algeria. The Moroccan Prime Minister recently said that for every step toward peace Algeria makes, Morocco will make ten steps. The ten steps should start today.
It should not matter if Algeria’s intentions are genuine of not, Morocco should continue to reach out to its neighbor. Sooner of later, we will unite, the winds of change will reach North Africa hopefully in our lifetime. If Europe did it, so can we.
We might be fooling ourselves thinking that the Algerian regime will rise to the challenge and start thinking about helping to build a united prosperous Maghreb. Still, we in Morocco should never ever give up on the dream that one day every Maghreb citizen, regardless if he or she is a Kabylie, Arab, Amazigh, Muslim, Jew, or Christian, live under the umbrella of peace and harmony.
Edited by Timothy Filla
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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