Former Tunisian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Ounaies has highlighted the role that Algeria plays in fueling a war against Morocco and in obstructing unity in the Maghreb.
According to the former Tunisian diplomat, who served as foreign minister in early 2011, Algeria’s war against Morocco is one of the main reasons the kingdom decided to resume its diplomatic relations with Israel.
In an interview with Tunisian radio station IFM on Monday, December 14, Ounaeis said Algeria left Morocco no choice but to resume its relationship with Israel in exchange for US support in the Western Sahara dispute.
Morocco’s decision “was surprising,” Ounaeis said, “but not in a negative way.”
“The geopolitical scene in the world and in the region has changed, so Morocco’s choices went in a new direction,” he explained.
According to the former Tunisian official, Morocco agreed on a deal with Israel and the US because the kingdom has been at war with Algeria for 45 years.
“They (Morocco) tried war with weapons and bullets. They tried negotiations. They were patient. They waited for 45 years. But what is going on in the region has pushed them to seize an opportunity and make a surprising decision,” Ounaeis said.
The former FM explained that the US’ recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara represents an important breakthrough for the kingdom.
“The United States has the right to veto votes at the UN Security Council. Therefore, US support is even more important than UN support,” he explained.
“Morocco is just trying to defend sovereignty over its territories, just like they were before colonization, not like how they became after,” he added.
When asked about whether Morocco’s “normalization” with Israel will destroy the project of the Maghreb Union, Ounaeis denounced Algeria’s role in the project’s obstruction.
“The dream was not destroyed by King Mohammed VI or by Morocco, it was destroyed by those playing with fire,” he said.
After the interviewer asked him to explain who are “those playing with fire,” he answered with a rhetorical question: “Who launched a war against Morocco?”
He then affirmed his argument, saying “It’s Algeria. It’s the Algerian military regime.”
Recalling how the war between Morocco and Algeria began, Ounaeis said the Algerian regime “betrayed” the countries that helped them in their fight for independence—Morocco and Tunisia.
“The Algerian military regime wanted to impose new borders by force. They took hundreds of kilometers from our Sahara and Habib Bourguiba (Tunisian President between 1956-1987) forfeited them,” the former minister explained.
“But when they (Algeria) wanted to do the same with Morocco, [the late King] Hassan II refused to give up the Moroccan territory — and it is his right to refuse — so they launched a war against him,” he continued.
According to Ounaeis, the “entire Maghreb… including Algerians” is suffering from the ongoing war that Algeria launched against Morocco.
Responding to critics who accuse Morocco of “betraying” the Palestinian cause, Ounaeis stressed that the kingdom is one of its strongest defenders.
“Morocco has been presiding over the Al Quds Committee for more than 40 years, since [late King] Hassan II decided to chair it to defend the Palestinian cause. Morocco has been loyal ever since,” he said.
For the former Tunisian diplomat, official relations between Morocco and Israel will not affect the kingdom’s position regarding the Palestinian cause.
“King Mohammed VI has taken an unexpected but brave decision,” Ounaeis commented on the resumption of Morocco-Israel relations.
Switching back to Algeria’s role in obstructing regional unity, the former Tunisian official expressed hope that the recent Hirak popular movement in Algeria will create “an actual democratic system” for Morocco’s eastern neighbor.
“Only then we can think of having a Maghreb Union. Algeria will win, Morocco will win, and Tunisia will win,” he concluded.