Sharm el-Sheikh, Asharq Al-Awsat- Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci described the relations between Algeria and Morocco as normal, pointing out that regular and continuing contacts take place between Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and King Muhammad VI. The most recent communication they had took place last week.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, the Algerian foreign minister also spoke of combating terrorism, reform of the UN, results of the summit of the non-aligned movement and relations with Iran.
The following is the full text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your assessment of the results of the summit of the non-aligned movement held in Sharm el-Sheikh?
[Medelci] The summit stood for international peace and justice; it has drawn a clear vision of issues of concern to the movement, especially the economic crisis and how to deal with it; reform of the UN, combating terrorism, interfaith and cultural dialogue, and promoting democracy. President Bouteflika put emphasis on all these issues during his discussions at the summit.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about the situation of Palestine and the Middle East? Is the non-aligned movement in a position to play a role in this chronic issue?
[Medelci] The summit has adopted a special declaration concerning Palestine. This means that the Palestine question is a central issue for two thirds of the world states; not only for the Arabs. The summit also endorsed the Arab peace initiative, the establishment of the Palestinian state, the right of the Palestinian refugees to return, Jerusalem, and the resumption of negotiations to discuss all of the six issues regarding the Palestinian problem.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] But the peace process is at a standstill, what should be done to make it move?
[Medelci] There is positive interest in the Palestinian case and the Middle East and the international climate is much better, especially after the US President talked about the two-state solution. This vision gives the non-aligned movement a chance to implement this solution. We hope to solve the Palestinian problem and those of neighboring Arab countries through the Arab peace initiative, which has been accepted by all, except Israel, which remains hesitant because it does not want peace.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Did the non-aligned movement support the peaceful Iranian nuclear program?
[Medelci] It did, and it did so surely and clearly, especially if we take into consideration its peaceful purposes. If it had other purposes in view, then neither Algeria, nor the non-aligned movement would have supported Iran. All supported Iran’s peaceful nuclear program.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Did you meet with the Iranian foreign minister during the summit?
[Medelci] We always meet, in Algeria, in Teheran and on many occasions to discuss issues of common interest.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Have you discussed the issue of terrorism from which Algeria is still suffering?
[Medelci] Algeria has had a painful experience with terrorism and therefore it would welcome cooperation with other states wishing to deal with this issue. We give our expertise to others in this respect and we support combating terrorism, but in a clever and comprehensive manner, not just by the use of force.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you think that UN reform is necessary to achieve international peace and security?
[Medelci] All states agree on this matter. The non-aligned movement wishes to have a representation on the Security Council that would give prominence to its importance, but achieving such a wish seems out of the question at present. It would be possible for the non-aligned movement, the Arabs, and African states working together, to achieve the UN reform that we want.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What do you think to the approach of the non-aligned movement towards Western Sahara that was expressed in the summit’s final declaration?
[Medelci] The final summit declaration clearly recognized the right of the Sahara people to self-determination, on the basis of UN recommendations, Security Council resolutions and the initiative of the UN Secretary General. Algeria is working towards a solution along these lines.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is it not about time that Algeria and Morocco have permanent normal relations instead of their seasonal relations?
[Medelci] We have normal relations with Morocco and there is no problem.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What then about normalization and opening the borders between the two countries?
[Medelci] Borders do not prevent countries from having normal relations. The opening of borders needs security on both sides, but the Sahara issue has nothing to do with the borders.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Since the Arab summit was held in Algeria, there have been no warm friendly relations between the Moroccan king and President Bouteflika. Why is that?
[Medelci] King Muhammad VI and President Bouteflika have met on many occasions outside Morocco and Algeria, and they frequently communicate by telephone. The latest communication they had was last week. The relations between the two countries are not bad; it is a relation of dialogue and understanding on issues of concern for both parties.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Was the purpose of President Bouteflika’s visit to Cairo to remove the misunderstanding that took place because Algeria put forward a candidate for the post of UNESCO Secretary General to compete with the Egyptian minister Farooq Hosni?
[Medelci] President Bouteflika’s visit to Cairo was an extremely friendly visit, and so were his discussions with President Hosni Mubarak to whom he offered condolences for the death of his grandson. As for the issue of Farooq Hosni, it is an issue of the past. Algeria withdrew its candidate several weeks ago, in harmony with its position in support of the Egyptian candidate.