Although the Western Sahara conflict is a priority for Morocco’s territorial integrity, the Algerian President believes that his country’s support for the Polisario Front should not cause a rift.
Rabat – Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune does not consider his country’s position on Western Sahara a source of rift and tension between Morocco and Algeria.
In an interview aired on Algerian TV on Sunday, Tebboune made contradictory claims about the Morocco-Algeria relations, claiming Algiers has no problem with Rabat.
“The Algerian people love the Moroccan people and Moroccans love Algerians,” he claimed.
He argued Algeria harbors no hostilities towards Morocco, claiming Rabat may be at fault for the perceived rift between the two neighbors. “If in Morocco they think there is a problem, let them come and say it.”
For Tebboune, Western Sahara should not be the cause of a diplomatic conflict between Rabat and Algiers.
He claimed the Western Sahara question is a matter of “decolonization,” arguing the conflict was classified as such in 1989 during a meeting between former Algerian president Chadli Bendjedid, King Hassan II, and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.
When the late King Hassan II and late Saudi King Fahd came to Algeria to meet with Benjdid, the three leaders agreed that the issue should be tabled to the UN, with fraternal relations not affected, he explained.
As the Algerian President sees it, that his country considers Western Sahara a decolonization matter and supports the region’s separatist movement should not taint its relationship with Rabat.
For Rabat, however, supporting the Polisario Front’s independence claims over Western Sahara blatantly and unbearably undermines Morocco’s territorial integrity.
The Western Sahara conflict is among Morocco’s top priorities, and the North African country has been mobilizing its diplomacy to defend its sovereignty over the region.
Algeria’s government, however, has continuously ignored Morocco’s calls for brotherly dialogue on the issue and other shared concerns. Successive Algerian regimes have vowed to support the Polisario Front in its statehood ambitions.
The Algerian state also hosts, finances, and arms the Polisario Front in the Tindouf camps, where thousands of Sahrawis suffer malnutrition, water scarcity, and now neglect amid the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
Denials and performative neighborliness
While citing its good intentions in relation to Western Sahara and calling for neighborliness with Morocco, Algerian officials continue to reiterate support for the Sahrawi “self-determination.”
In defiance of Morocco’s Autonomy Plan, which many in the international community have applauded, Algeria continues to support the anachronistic view of the “referendum on self-determination.”
Even as the current UN consensus appears to welcome Morocco’s proposal of a politically negotiated resolution, Algeria has doggedly clung to the notion that only a referendum can end Morocco’s “occupation” of its southern provinces.
And while a number of recent developments have shown signs of fundamental disagreements — and sometimes unbridgeable hostilities — between the two neighbors, President Tebboune’s latest ambiguous claims of Algeria’s good intentions constitute an emerging pattern in Algeria’s leadership quarters. In recent months, Algerian officials have brazenly denied any rift with Morocco.
In August, Communication Minister and Spokesperson of Algeria’s government Ammar Belhimer said that Morocco is a “neighbor and brother country.”
Recalling the historic and cultural dept that the two countries share, Belheimer said Rabat and Algiers share the same destiny “in light of the current challenges, especially what the world is experiencing due to the circumstances of the health crisis.”
He claimed that Algeria does not intend any “attempt to disturb the atmosphere between brotherly Moroccan and Algerian peoples.”
The official, however, expressed support for the Polisario Front and its “Sahrawi self-determination” claims.
He claimed that his country is obliged to commit to principles of “full respect for international charters and decisions of the international community on the protection of peoples and the consecration of their right to self-determination, as is the case for the Sahrawi question.”
King Mohammed VI has notably said that Morocco is poised to “open a new page” in the relationship with Algeria, calling on Algiers to engage in a frank and direct dialogue to break the decades-old stalemate.
With such an emerging pattern of ambiguity, denials, and performative neighborliness, however, it is apparent that Algiers is not yet interested in Morocco’s offer of renewed fraternity and diplomatic rapprochement.