Algeria suspends treaty with Spain and bans imports over Western Sahara

ALGIERS/MADRID, June 8 (Reuters) – Algeria has suspended a 20-year-old friendship treaty with Spain that committed the two sides to cooperate in controlling migration flows, and has also banned imports from of Spain, aggravating the row over Madrid’s position on Western Sahara.

Algerian state media reported the suspension of the treaty without citing a reason, although Algeria in March withdrew its ambassador to Spain for consultations over the Western Sahara dispute. Read more

Spanish diplomatic sources said Spain regretted the decision but remained committed to the content and principle of the treaty.

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Separately, the Algerian banking association issued a statement telling banks that imports of goods and services from Spain were stopping because the treaty was suspended.

The 2002 treaty called on the two parties to “deepen their cooperation in the control of migratory flows and the fight against trafficking in human beings”, according to the text recorded in the Spanish official journal.

On Wednesday, 113 undocumented migrants arrived in Spain’s Balearic Islands, a route that Spanish authorities said was usually taken by boats from Algeria.

Migrant flows have risen sharply across the Mediterranean this year as the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine hit the global economy.

Algeria was angered when Spain said in March it supported a Moroccan plan to offer autonomy to Western Sahara. Algeria supports the Polisario Front movement which demands full independence for the territory, which Morocco considers its own and largely controls. Read more

A former Algerian official told Reuters that Algiers believed the Spanish government had decided not to maintain good ties with Algeria.

Algeria is one of Spain’s main gas suppliers, but Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has previously said he will not break the supply contract.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said there was no indication this had changed and Spanish Energy Minister Teresa Ribera said the conduct of Algeria’s gas supply had been exemplary.

Algeria should review the prices of any new gas contracts with Spanish companies, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters. The current contract is long-term with prices well below the current market level, said the same source, who asked not to be identified.

Since the Western Sahara conflict erupted again in 2020, nearly three decades after a ceasefire, relations between Algeria and Morocco have deteriorated sharply. Read more

Spain’s move towards Morocco’s position on Western Sahara ended a dispute between Madrid and Rabat last year involving both the disputed territory and migration. Read more

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Reporting by Enas Alashray and Lamine Chikhi; edited by Angus McDowall and Richard Pullin

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Edward K. Thompson