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Morocco–Algeria tensions escalate over Sahara comments - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A picture taken on September 13, 2013, shows Moroccan and Algerian flags in Saidia, at the border between the two countries. (AFP PHOTO/FADEL SENNA)

A picture taken on September 13, 2013, shows Moroccan and Algerian flags in Saidia, at the border between the two countries. (AFP PHOTO/FADEL SENNA)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Dozens of Moroccans protested outside the Algerian embassy in Casablanca against comments made by Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika regarding Morocco’s record in the disputed Sahrawi territory on Friday.

In a vivid sign of the growing tensions between the neighboring North African countries, one young Moroccan climbed the walls of the consulate and tore down the Algerian flag flying from the roof of the building.

A spokesman for the Algerian foreign ministry, Amar Belani, condemned the “blatant act of violation” of his country’s consulate in Casablanca.

The dispute was sparked last Monday by a speech given by the Algerian justice minister in the name of Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika at a conference of mostly African trade union leaders in Abuja, Nigeria.

In the speech, the Algerian side called for an international mechanism to monitor the human rights situation in Sahara.

The Moroccan government reacted swiftly to the speech, beginning with a condemnation published by the official Maghreb Arabe Presse news agency last Tuesday.

The Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation announced on Wednesday that the Kingdom was recalling its ambassador to Algiers for “consultation” on the issue.

According to the Ministry’s communiqué, this diplomatic escalation happened as a consequence of “Algeria’s continuous provocation and hostility towards the Kingdom, especially in regard to the issue of the Moroccan Sahara.”

The Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded by summoning Morocco’s chargé d’affaires to provide explanations regarding the incident.

The Sahara conflict dates back to the 1970s and is considered as one of the main factors behind the lack of integration in the Arab Maghreb Union, of which Morocco and Algeria are both members.