Algeria recalls its ambassador to Rabat for consultations

Algiers takes the decision after Morocco defended the Kabylia region's right to self-determination
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AFP/ODD ANDERSEN  -   Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Algeria

Relations between Algeria and Morocco have never been easy, but in recent months they have been at their most tense. The Western Sahara conflict has returned to the international stage since last November, when hostilities resumed between the Algerian-backed Polisario Front and the Alawi kingdom. The national liberation movement of Western Sahara ended the ceasefire with the North African kingdom, in place since 1991, after Moroccan forces launched an attack on the Guerguerat border crossing, which links Mauritania to Western Sahara.

The Trump administration's decision to recognise Moroccan sovereignty over the Sahara, in exchange for normalising relations with Israel, has not helped to iron out the differences between Algeria and Morocco either. Since Donald Trump took the step of recognising Moroccan sovereignty over the Sahara, the Alawite kingdom has tried to get other countries, especially Europeans, to follow the same steps as the US, which has provoked a series of diplomatic crises between the kingdom and countries such as Germany and Spain that advocate a solution within the framework of the United Nations (UN).

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AFP/FADEL SENNA - Border post between Morocco and Mauritania at Guerguerat in Western Sahara

Western Sahara has once again provoked a diplomatic crisis, this time between Morocco and Algeria. The Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it had recalled its ambassador to Rabat for "consultations with immediate effect" after Morocco's diplomatic representation to the United Nations had a few days earlier distributed a note to representatives of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) states in which it allegedly declared its support for the right to self-determination of the Kabylia region (northwest Algeria), populated mainly by Berbers.

This action by Morocco comes just days after the new Algerian foreign minister, Ramtane Lamamra, referred to the occupation of the Sahrawi territory and urged Morocco to stop blocking the appointment of the UN envoy for Western Sahara. In response, Morocco's ambassador to the UN, Omar Hilale, circulated an official statement to NAM countries declaring Rabat's support for the "right to self-determination of the Kabyle people".

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AFP/ RYAD KRAMDI - Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune

Kabylia is a sensitive issue for Algeria, which rejects any self-determination initiative for the region. Just two months ago, the Algerian government declared the Movement for the Self-Determination of Kabylia (MAK) and the Islamist movement Rachad to be "terrorist groups", accusing them of carrying out "hostile and subversive acts" to destabilise the country and undermine its security. Algeria has described the statements by the Moroccan ambassador, Omar Hilale, as 'aggressive', and according to the Algerian Foreign Ministry in a press release, 'in the absence of a positive and appropriate response from the Moroccan side, it was decided today to convene with immediate effect to consult with the Algerian ambassador in Rabat, without prejudice to other possible measures depending on the evolution of this case'.

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PHOTO/REUTERS - Brahim Ghali, Polisario Front Secretary General

Western Sahara has further strained the already complicated relationship between Morocco and Algeria. While the Alawi kingdom continues to defend its right to sovereignty over the territory, the Algerian-backed Polisario Front advocates a referendum on self-determination. Algeria's strong support for the Polisario was clearly reflected in Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune's visit to Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali, who was hospitalised in the Algerian capital after being released from hospital in Spain, where he was treated by COVID-19.