PUBLICIDAD

Iberdrola

Reassurance in Morocco over Algeria's accusations of killing its civilians

Government spokesman Mustafa Baytas assures that Morocco's foreign policy will remain attached to "the principles of good neighbourliness with everyone" without mentioning Algeria
Moroccan and Algerian flags in Saidia, on the border between the two countries.

AFP/FADEL SENNA  -   Moroccan and Algerian flags in Saidia, on the border between the two countries

Morocco remains calm after Algeria's accusations that its neighbour killed three Algerian truck drivers in an alleged air strike in Western Sahara, as it awaits King Mohammed VI's speech on Saturday to mark the anniversary of the Green March.

The Algerian government sent a letter to the UN yesterday accusing its western neighbour of the deaths of three Algerian civilians in an alleged Moroccan bombing of a commercial convoy in Western Sahara, an incident it deemed an "unjustified act of terrorism".

These accusations come on the eve of Saturday's commemoration of the 46th anniversary of the Green March, an event off great symbolism for Moroccans, which forced the withdrawal of Spanish troops from the Sahrawi territory in 1975 when Hassan II called for a civilian march of more than 35,000 Moroccans to the territory.

Expectations are pinned on Mohammed VI's address to the nation on this day in case he refers to the tension with Algeria.

En esta foto de archivo tomada el 31 de julio de 2018, el rey marroquí Mohamed VI saluda a la multitud
AFP/FADEL SENNA - In this file photo taken on July 31, 2018, Moroccan King Mohammed VI waves to the crowd.
The strategy of silence

Morocco has so far maintained its strategy of silence in managing its tension with Algeria and has not officially reacted to the latest accusation from its eastern neighbour.

The only indirect comment so far has come from government spokesman Mustafa Baytas, who - asked yesterday by journalists about the latest escalation - contented himself with saying that his country's foreign policy will remain attached to "the principles of good neighbourliness with everyone" without mentioning Algeria.

In the same vein, the Moroccan press played down the significance of this incident, publishing analyses in which it considered the latest accusations as "a new Algerian propaganda to incite hostilities".

"Morocco is calm and not nervous", Moussaoui Ajlaoui, a Moroccan expert at the Centre for African Studies, told the EFE news agency. According to him, Rabat's priority now is to take greater political advantage of several events such as the recognition by former US president Donald Trump of Moroccan sovereignty over this Sahrawi territory, or the opening of 23 consulates of foreign countries in this area.

For the analyst, Rabat will continue to seek more international support for its thesis on the Sahara by exerting more pressure on Europe, specifically Spain and Germany, to convince them of the autonomy option as a political solution to the conflict.

Puesto fronterizo entre Marruecos y Mauritania en Guerguerat, situado en el Sáhara Occidental, el 24 de noviembre de 2020
AFP/FADEL SENNA - Border crossing point between Morocco and Mauritania in Guerguerat, Western Sahara, 24 November 2020.
Lobbying the UN

As for the current bilateral tension, Ajlaoui explains that relations between Morocco and Algeria began to deteriorate in December 2019 with the arrival of Abdelmadjid Tebboune as President, who, according to him, intends to "whip up hostility with Rabat to reinforce his legitimacy internally".

Ajlaoui believes that with the incident of the truck drivers, Algeria wants to put pressure on the UN, particularly after the latest resolution of the Security Council which agreed to extend the mandate of the UN Mission for Western Sahara (MINURSO), in a decision rejected by Algiers and the Polisario Front, considering it favourable to Morocco's thesis on the conflict.

"Algeria wants to change the references of the Sahara conflict. With its latest escalation, it wants to tell the Security Council that its latest resolution has only degraded the military and security situation in the area", he analysed.

With its attitude, Ajlaoui adds, Algiers also wants to put pressure on Mauritania to prevent any future understanding between Rabat and Nouakchott.

However, Ajlaoui rules out the possibility of the current tension degenerating into war, although there is a hypothesis of "possible border skirmishes" to the east of the Moroccan defence wall in the Bir Lehlu and Tifariti areas (known as zones liberated by the Polisario) opposite the Algerian town of Tindouf.

"Morocco and Algeria are a strategic factor for the great powers and Europe in the region, and they will not allow a conflict to break out in the area," he said.

El presidente de Argelia, Abdelmadjid Tebboune
PHOTO/FAROUK BATICHE - The President of Algeria, Abdelmadjid Tebboune
UN confirms two Algerian trucks vandalised in Sahara territory

The UN mission in the Sahara (Minurso) confirmed that it had found two Algerian trucks "badly damaged" inside the territory of Western Sahara, at the place where the Algerian presidency claimed the Moroccan army had bombed and killed three truck drivers on Monday.

The Secretary General's spokesman, Farhan Khan, limited himself to pointing out that the Minurso agents had found that the two trucks "were badly damaged and burnt" and that the place where they were located was "in the eastern part of Western Sahara, near the locality of Bir Lahlu", an area that falls outside the Moroccan defence wall.

As to what the trucks were doing in this area, which is supposedly demilitarised - although the Polisario broke the ceasefire a year ago - the spokesman said at his daily press conference that he did not have an answer, although it is "a matter that is being analysed". 

At no time did the spokesman want to speculate on whether there was an attack or who might have carried it out, at a time when tensions have been growing in the area between Algeria and Morocco. 

The Secretary-General said through his spokesman that he urged the two countries to engage in dialogue to ensure that tensions are defused, and hoped that the forthcoming visit to the region by his personal envoy for the Sahara, Staffan de Mistura, would help to improve the situation.