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Algeria will "review" its relations with Morocco, which it accuses of "hostile acts"

The decision was taken during an extraordinary meeting of the Algerian High Security Council
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PHOTO/AP  -   Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune

Relations between Algeria and Morocco are once again strained. The Algerian presidential cabinet, in an official communiqué, has announced that it will "review" its relations with Rabat, which it accuses of involvement in the fires that have devastated the North African country. "The incessant acts of hostility perpetrated by Morocco against Algeria have made it necessary to review relations between the two countries and to intensify security controls at the western borders," the press release states, without further clarification.

This decision was taken during an extraordinary meeting of the Algerian High Security Council, chaired by the head of state, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, and devoted to assessing the situation following the devastating forest fires that have left at least 90 dead in the north of the country. President Tebboune had already declared that the fires had a "criminal" origin. 

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AP/TOUFIK DOUDOU - A French water pumping plane pours water on a fire near the village of Toudja, in the Kabyle region, east of Algiers

Algerian leaders accused a Paris-based Kabyle independence organisation of involvement in the fires and in the lynching of a man wrongly accused of pyromania in Kabylia (northeast), the region worst affected by the fires. They also questioned the Islamic-conservative Rachad movement based in London. These two movements are illegal in Algeria, where they were described as "terrorist organisations" on 18 May.

This episode further worsens relations between the two countries, which historically have never really clicked. A month ago, Algiers recalled its ambassador to Rabat for consultations after Morocco's diplomatic representation to the United Nations distributed a note to representatives of the states of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in which it allegedly declared its support for the right to self-determination of the Kabylia region (northwest Algeria), populated mainly by Berbers.

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

This action on the part of Morocco came in response to an intervention by the Algerian Foreign Minister, Ramtane Lamamra, in which he referred to the occupation of the Saharawi territory and urged Morocco to stop blocking the appointment of the UN envoy for Western Sahara. Following these statements, the Moroccan ambassador to the UN, Omar Hilale, circulated an official statement to the NAM countries declaring Rabat's support for the "right to self-determination of the Kabyle people".

Western Sahara further strains 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.

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PHOTO/MAP - Morocco's King Mohammed VI, speaking to the nation on the occasion of the 22nd anniversary of Throne Day

In an attempt to improve relations between the neighbouring countries, King Mohammed VI, on the occasion of Throne Day, gave a speech in which he extended his hand to Algeria and expressed his intention to "keep the borders open is the normal situation between two countries. Two neighbours and two brotherly peoples", alluding to the border closures that have existed between the two countries since 1994. Algeria, for its part, did not want to take up the Moroccan monarch's conciliatory message and accused the North African country of "not providing answers to the current situational problem", in a clear reference to the Moroccan position on the Kabyle tribes' independence movement that the Moroccan ambassador, Omar Hilale, expressed at the UN.