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Algeria: the army softens its tone and sends a message of calm to Morocco

The Algerian Defence Staff uses the latest issue of its magazine to defuse diplomatic tension after the first military parade for independence in 33 years
chengriha ejercito argelia  mensaje editorial

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The Algerian National People's Army (ENPA), which plays an important role in Algeria's domestic and foreign policy, has sought to defuse recent tensions with neighbouring Morocco in the editorial of the latest issue of its monthly magazine, El Djeich. 

After the show of force of Algeria's first military parade for independence in 33 years in early July, the Defence General Staff, led by Saïd Chengriha, seems to accept the hand extended by the Moroccan monarch, Mohammed VI, in his last speech on the feast of the throne. 

Chengriha's earlier messages hinted that tensions between the two countries could escalate in the near future. Rumours of the stationing of S-350 missile systems in the northwest of the country did not help, nor did the official confirmation of Desert Shield manoeuvres with Russia just 50 km from the Moroccan border. All this, coupled with the French colonial power's 60th anniversary parade, with a parade of S-300 systems, raised the tone of discord. Morocco and Algeria have been going through a difficult time in their relationship since the breakdown of official talks almost a year ago, followed by the non-renewal of Morocco's concession to transport gas through the Maghreb-Europe pipeline. However, Chengriha's latest move calls for calm, both internally and externally in Algeria. 

desfile militar de argelia en el día de su indepencia
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The August issue of the magazine is headed by a message signed by the magazine's editor, "général-major" Mabrouk Saba, who states that the Independence Day parade "carried a message to the Algerian people, first of all to reassure them, but also to the outside world to demonstrate that the sophisticated equipment with which our army is equipped is destined exclusively for the defence of the homeland, as General Saïd Chengriha, Chief of Staff of the National People's Army, recalled".

According to international observers quoted in several North African media, these declarations emanating from the Algerian military leadership could mean the end of the military's blockade of diplomatic relations with neighbouring Morocco. They coincide with the words of King Mohammed VI during the feast of the Throne, when he invited the Algerian government to "work to establish normal relations between two brotherly peoples who are united by historical ties and a common destiny". 

mensaje del rey de Marruecos Mohamed VI en el día de la fiesta del Trono
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According to analyses by the US think tank Carnegie Center, in 2018 the Algerian military regained the political power that former president Bouteflika had taken away from it in the twilight of the civil war of the 1990s. Since then, with the reforms of former Chief of Defence Staff Ahmed Gaïd Salah, who transferred intelligence agencies to the armed forces, the presidency and political forces have lacked the tools to counter the military's influence.

According to the same sources, it is often the military itself that strains diplomatic relations with Morocco. Various sources quoted by the daily Jeune Afrique have always described General Chengriha as fervently anti-Moroccan from the beginning of his military career to the present day. 

It remains to be hoped that this change of course on the part of the Algerian military leadership will materialise in a clear intention to resume diplomatic relations with Morocco and put an end to the situation of military escalation that is driving the successive arms purchases by two countries that see their defence budgets grow every year and block the possibilities of collaboration and economic cooperation for the development of a key region in the Mediterranean basin.