Rabat, Asharq Al-Awsat—Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar blamed Algeria for the ongoing “stagnation” and “obstruction” within the Arab Maghreb Union, warning that Algeria’s position towards the issue of the Western Sahara is threatening the future of the North African region.
Mezouar dismissed comments issued by Algerian counterpart Ramtane Lamamra last week about Algiers being willing to “normalize” relations with Rabat if Morocco agrees to “respect the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination,” saying that Algeria has issued such statements before. Morocco and Algeria have been locked in a decades-long crisis over the Rabat-controlled Western Sahara region, with Algeria backing the native Sahrawi people and calls for a referendum on independence.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar said: “Algeria has expressed statements such as this before on a number of occasions during media campaigns attempting to strike Morocco and harm its historic, legitimate rights and territorial sovereignty.”
“This is an issue that Algerian officials are always talking about based on the logic of the Cold War, especially when any development in Algerian-Moroccan relations or development of the Maghreb union is contingent on respecting Algeria’s position in this artificial dispute,” he added.
“They know that this position is baseless and completely incompatible with the logic of history and the principles of good neighborliness,” the Moroccan Foreign Minister said.
Last week, Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra issued a statement in which he confirmed that Algiers is prepared to normalize relations with Rabat, but only if Morocco accepts the Algerian position on the Western Sahara. “When Algeria banked on the establishment of normal bilateral relations with the Kingdom of Morocco and on the creation of the Arab Maghreb Union to set up a new climate in the region . . . it was based on the idea that Morocco would admit evidences and would not impose a solution in the region which would be rejected by both the international community and the Sahrawi people,”
“We do not believe that thoughtless and irresponsible actions from certain parties in the brother country will alter Algeria’s position of principle . . . Algeria will remain attached to its position,” he added.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Morocco’s Foreign Minister warned that “the Algerian authorities . . . are jeopardizing the future of the Maghreb region and its people. They are hampering the prospect of effective cooperation which would enable our region to cope with the challenges it is facing, particularly those relating to security and development.”
“Algeria’s position [on the Western Sahara] is unjustifiable. Algeria is responsible—in front of the eyes of history, future generations and the Maghreb world—for the continuing stagnation within the Maghreb Union and the obstruction of its work,” he added.