Algeria withdraws from the UN round table on Moroccan Sahara

The special envoy for the Sahara dossier at the UN has announced his withdrawal, increasing diplomatic tension between the two neighbouring countries

PHOTO/ARCHIVO  -   Border crossing point between Algeria and Morocco

Algeria distances itself even further from Morocco. Far from wanting to reverse the diplomatic situation, Algiers has been the protagonist of an important episode after deciding to leave the table where a solution to the Sahara conflict was to be discussed. A significant event that highlights Algeria's desire not to close the gap.

The Algerian envoy for the Sahara dossier, Ammar Bellani, said that Algeria had informed the Security Council of its withdrawal from a round table to discuss tripartite negotiations on the Western Sahara issue. 

PHOTO/ARCHIVO -  The President of Algeria Abdelmadjid Tebboune

Algeria's withdrawal is in response to Algeria's fears that the decisions would lead to commitments that would force Algeria to take action. International observers believe that Algeria has suffered as a result of the diplomatic rupture unilaterally executed by Algiers. However, far from finding a rapprochement, Algeria's new move makes negotiations for a solution to the conflict more difficult and continues to create new distances from Morocco.

Algeria took part in the first two meetings of other roundtables on this issue. These negotiations, held twice in Geneva in 2018 and 2019, were able to bring together Moroccan and Algerian representatives and Polisario Front officials. According to Moroccan media, after announcing its withdrawal, Algeria is reportedly trying to "confuse" the new UN envoy for the Sahara dossier, Staffan de Mistura, and "obstruct" efforts to make progress in the negotiations. 

AFP/ SALVATORE DI NOLFI  -  UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

Following this action by Algeria, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on the country "to return to the round table" to try to resume the political process to try to find a solution in accordance with the resolutions ratified by the Security Council in 2018.

After announcing his withdrawal, the Algerian envoy said that the decision to withdraw "is because this formula (the round table) is no longer an ideal way to help resolve the conflict, as Morocco has been used politically and in bad faith to portray Algeria as a party to the conflict". 

AFP/FADEL SENNA - Border crossing point between Morocco and Mauritania at Guerguerat in Western Sahara on 24 November 2020, following the intervention of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces in the area.

In this way, the distance between Algeria and Morocco is becoming more than notorious. Last August, Algeria decided to break off diplomatic relations with the Alawi kingdom after arguing that the rupture was the result of "a series of disagreements" with its neighbouring country. This decision came as no surprise to Morocco, since the Kingdom, through a speech issued by King Mohammed VI, tried to reach out to Algeria, affirming its fraternity.

This decision has already had its first consequences. With the rupture, the supply of Algerian gas remains in the balance. If Algeria decides to terminate the agreement, which is due to expire on 31 October, Morocco will no longer be able to obtain supplies through the GME pipeline. As a precaution, the kingdom has already looked to Spain to try to reverse the flow of gas. 

AFP/ RYAD KRAMDI  -  Algerian soldiers stand guard at the Tiguentourine gas complex in In Amenas, some 1,600 kilometres southeast of the capital.

With Algeria's departure from the table, the rift between the neighbouring countries cools at a time when the North African region is engaged in important diplomacy. 

In this context, the Moroccan ambassador to the United Nations, Omar Hilale, declared that Algeria, the "real party responsible for the creation and maintenance of the artificial regional dispute over the Moroccan Sahara issue, is called upon to engage fully in the round table process in a spirit of realism and compromise".

It is not the first time that Morocco has asserted that Algeria has a significant role to play in the solution to the problem. In this context, Morocco's permanent representative to the United Nations, Omar Hilale, has called on Algeria to recognise "its responsibility as a party to the conflict in order to facilitate the UN mission" to try to find a solution.