ALGERIA, ALGERIA (AP) – The Algerian president’s office announced on Wednesday that the North African nation is “immediately” suspending a two-decade-old friendship treaty with Spain.
It was the latest blow to the increasingly shaky relationship between Algeria and Madrid, which is dependent on Algeria in natural gas supplies.
Tensions have risen in a complex tripartite dispute after Spain apparently backed Morocco’s position on the disputed territory of Western Sahara. Algeria supports the Polisario independence movement in the region, which rejects Morocco’s annexation of Western Sahara. Polisario is a camp in the south of Algeria.
A statement from the office of Algerian President Abdelmajid Tebun cited an “unreasonable turn” in March in Spain’s position, which became “a fact made using erroneous arguments”. It says that since then, Spain has been campaigning to “justify” its position.
The statement said Spain was abusing its role of “administrative power” in Western Sahara until the United Nations resolved its decades-long status as a vast mineral-rich territory. Thus, it is “directly contributing to the degradation of the situation in Western Sahara and the region,” the Algerian president’s office said.
“As a result, Algeria has decided to immediately suspend the agreement, which formed the basis of relations between the two countries,” the statement said. The contract is dated 2002.
The Spanish government has said it regrets Algeria’s decision and reaffirmed its commitment to the treaty of friendship.
“The Spanish government views Algeria as a friendly neighbor and reaffirms its full commitment to maintaining and developing special cooperation between our two countries for the benefit of both peoples,” the Spanish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Spain was a former colonial power in Western Sahara until it was annexed by Morocco in 1975. Since then, Algeria and neighboring Morocco have had strained ties over the fate of Western Sahara, at some point battling war in the desert. Morocco wants some autonomy for the region with Moroccan oversight of what it calls its “southern provinces”.
The two African countries severed diplomatic relations in August as a result of the confrontation.
The issue of Western Sahara is coupled with turbulence over energy supplies from Algeria’s gas-rich countries. The Algerian press regularly calls Spain’s support for Morocco a form of “betrayal.”
In 2021, the Algerian company Sonatrach provided Spain with more than 40% of imported natural gas, most of which came through the Medgaz underwater pipeline. Another supply route to Spain was via the Maghreb Europe pipeline, which runs through Morocco, but it was suspended after the August severance of diplomatic relations between Algeria and Morocco.