Sunday, October 23, 2005

Algeria not sending its envoy to Morocco as rift deepens

Algeria is said to have rescinded its decision to send its new ambassador to Morocco, a move which signifies the persistence of tense relations between the two neighbouring North African countries.

The already bad relations between the two countries were made worse in recent days following accusations and counter-accusations by the two countries on the issue of the African illegal immigrants who cross into Europe through Algeria and Morocco.

Major-General Al Arabi Balkhair, the new Algerian Ambassador designated to Morocco, was supposed to reach Rabat last Wednesday, but the Algerian Embassy in Rabat told diplomatic missions in the Moroccan capital that the arrival of the new ambassador had been suspended indefinitely.

The appointment of Balkhair who, until his new appointment, was the Director of the President Abdulaziz Bouteflika’s presidential palace, was seen as an indication of the two countries’ determination to patch up and build relations towards better cooperation.

This is due to Balkhair’s closeness to the Algerian President, on the one hand, and his close ties with other decision-makers in his country, on the other.

Balkhair had played a significant role in improving the two countries’ relations in the eighties of the last century by successfully pushing for restoration of ties, diplomatic representation, the opening of the two countries’ common borders, the setting up of a higher committee for cooperation, and the establishment of the Maghreb Union. Soon after his appointment as his country’s ambassador to Morocco, Balkhair said he would work hard to improve relations between Algeria and Morocco, and to remove obstacles hindering that achievement.

Morocco continues to insist that the issue of Western Sahara was a Morocco-Algeria conflict and not Rabat’s dispute with the Polisario Front, which is fighting for an independent state in Western Sahara, using the Algerian town of Tindouf as its base.

Relations between the two countries, which have suffered so much due to the Western Sahara issue, have in the past few weeks witnessed a further deterioration due to the issue of illegal African immigrants using the two countries as a transit point to enter Europe. Security measures taken by Morocco in recent times to stave-off the illegal immigration menace had sparked strong protest from the illegal immigrants who accused Rabat of gross violation of human rights. Morocco accused Algeria of being the cause behind the increasing flow of illegal immigrants into Morocco.

The Polisario Front recently displayed in front of TV cameras a large number of Africans from sub-Saharan countries, whom the separatist organisation had found in remote desert areas having been dumped by Morocco without food or water, leaving them to the fate of a slow and painful death. The disclosure sparked worldwide condemnation against Morocco, which quickly accused Algeria and the Polisario Front of adopting dirty tactics in the Western Sahara conflict by using the issue of African illegal immigrants.


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