Algerian efforts to influence the Spanish enclave were foiled by local Moroccans.
Rabat – Melilla’s Moroccan community foiled attempts to spread Algerian influence in the Spanish enclave. According to Mororccan newspaper Assabah as cited by Le360, Algerian intelligence and government officials had attempted to broaden links between Melilla and Algeria through the establishment of an Algerian consulate and a maritime connection with the Algerian port city of Ghazaouet.
On Friday, December 18 Assabah reported that an alliance of local Moroccan business people had organized a campaign to thwart further growth of Algerian influence in Melilla, threatening to bring local economic activity to a halt, according to the same source. The governor of Nador and the Moroccan interior ministry were also involved.
The campaign dissuaded Spanish officials in Melilla from further cooperation with Morocco’s rival Algeria. The owner of the real estate where Algerian officials had hoped to establish a consulate evicted the Algerian staff from the building they had intended to convert, according to Assabah’s reporting.
The campaign by Morocco’s local business community further targeted the proposal to establish a direct maritime connection between Melilla and the Algerian port city of Ghazaouet in western Algeria. Instead a maritime link will connect the Spanish enclave and the Moroccan port at Beni-Ansar.
Beni-Ansar, also known as Ait Nsar, is a small port city in Nador province that serves as the main maritime link to the city of Nador. The new maritime link between the port and Melilla should be an extremely short ferry-ride, as Beni-Ansar is situated directly next to Melilla.
Diplomatic ties between Algeria and Melilla have tightened recently, with Algerian diplomats attempting to create visa-free travel, build religious connections, and expand trade. With Morocco embroiled in a stand-off with Algerian-backed Polisario forces on its southern borders, Algeria’s diplomatic corps attempted to create tensions in Melilla as well.
Algerian officials had made significant gains in strengthening relations already. In October of 2019, local spanish authorities attempted to hand control of Melilla’s mosques to the Algerian Ministry of Religious Affairs.
Local divisions among the Moroccan community in Melilla allowed for the rise in Algerian influence. The new alliance originating from the Moroccan business community appears to now have produced a united front against such endeavors.