The newly elected president of Algeria said he is “extremely sensitive when it comes to national sovereignty. I forgive no one for interfering or for harming our sovereignty.”
Rabat – Abdelmadjid Tebboune, the newly elected President of Algeria, has again commented on the foreign policy of his country regarding the icy diplomatic relations between Rabat and Algiers, off-handedly calling for appeasement but unmistakably vague on specifics.
Speaking on December 13, moments after the announcement of his victory after the heavily contested presidential election, Tebboune notably mentioned the cold relations with Morocco after a journalist asked him about his foreign strategy towards neighboring countries.
“I am extremely sensitive with regards to national sovereignty. I forgive no one for interfering or for harming our sovereignty,” said Algeria’s president-elect.
Throughout the crisis in Algeria, both before and after the resignation of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Morocco has firmly stood by the principle of non-interference, shying away from commenting on the Algerian popular movements and protests.
Morocco “neither meddles with the internal developments that Algeria witnesses nor comment on them,” Morocco’s FM, Nasser Bourita, said earlier this year.
In his December 13 remarks, Tebboune, who has previously espoused hawkish views on Morocco-Algeria relations, seemed to be drifting towards some sort of appeasement, tartly playing down the very hostility, he has once helped fuel. The new Algerian President emphasized that he knows “Moroccans very well. I know that the people there love Algeria and Algerians.”
Algerians, he added, have the same sentiments for Moroccans. “They are nice people.”
“There have been events that have caused the borders to close [between Algeria and Morocco]. In my opinion, the main cause of the conflict must be removed and everything else will follow,” he said without specifying the nature of the cause.
He said that relations should be based on reciprocity.
Morocco has already made a positive move towards Algeria, inviting the government to engage in a frank and serious dialogue to “break the stalemate” between the two neighbors.
The initiative came from King Mohammed VI, who in his 2018 Green March speech, spoke about the “abnormal” relations between the two nations.
This is not the first time that Tebboune has commented on the Rabat-Algiers frozen diplomatic ties. During his election campaign, the Algerian president called on Morocco to apologize for imposing visa regulations on Algerians after Asni terror attack in Marrakech in August 1994.
In the wake of the attack, Morocco imposed visa regulations on Algerian citizens, and Algeria closed the border.
On Sunday, November 24, as part of his election campaign, Tebboune said, Morocco should issue a “formal apology” to Algiers as a condition for reopening its borders with Morocco.
Tebboune also claimed that Algeria’s decision to close the border was not due to the Western Sahara conflict.
Business as usual
Algeria has long supported the Polisario Front, the breakaway group seeking independence in Western Sahara. Algeria hosts the group in the Tindouf province, where thousands of Sahrawi refugees live in what many international observers have described as inhumane conditions.
The Algerian president said that Algeria rejects the claims of its “involvement in the case of the Atlas Asni bombings in Marrakech.”
He also condemned Morocco’s decision to impose visa regulations on Algerian citizens.
“Algerians have been stranded in the Moroccan territories and visa regulations were imposed on Algerians of French origin,” he said.
Tebboune won the election with a majority of 58% of the vote, amid backlash and boycotted ballots by Algerians, who refused the election on the ground that all the candidates were deeply connected to the politico-military establishment of the Bouteflika era and would not deliver the kind of radical changes many Algerians hoped for after President Bouteflika was forced to resign last April.
A veteran of the Bouteflika cohort, having notably served as Prime Minister between 2012 and 2017, the 74-year-old’s election is largely seen as a continuation of the old Algerian regime, with a number of Moroccan observers arguing that Rabat-Algiers diplomatic rapprochement is nearly impossible in the next five years.