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Algeria may open border with Morocco

Source : | 3 February 2012 |  News, Politics | 3760 views

Recent comments by top Algerian officials could presage a reopening of the country’s border with Morocco.

The land border between Algeria and Morocco could be opened as early as May. The news follows statements by Algerian ministers indicating warming ties between the neighbours following an official visit by Morocco’s chief diplomat.

“Reopening the border between Algeria and Morocco is a real possibility, given the thaw in relations between the two sides, as illustrated by the recent visit by the Moroccan foreign minister,” Algerian Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia was quoted as telling Tout sur l’Algérie Sunday (January 29th).

The paper previously reported technical preparations were under way to reopen the frontier.

Ould Kablia’s remarks were the first official statement on the issue indicating a potential opening. The comments add to increasingly persistent demands in the Algerian press for the reopening of the borders between the two countries, which were closed in 1996.

The statement is all the more interesting as it comes just a few days after a visit by Moroccan Foreign Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani. His two day official trip, which wrapped up January 24th, was the first by a top Moroccan diplomat since 2003.

The trip officially did not include talks on Western Sahara nor the shared border, but the Moroccan foreign minister told Tout sur l’Algérie on January 25th that the two issues would be “dealt with in a calm and progressive manner”.

“We should not be afraid to discuss problems within an atmosphere of reciprocity and understanding, in order to find suitable solutions,” El Othmani was quoted as saying.

Added to this, the new head of the Moroccan diplomatic service spoke of a “shared desire to breathe new life” into bilateral relations upon his arrival in Algiers.

In a joint press conference with his Moroccan counterpart on January 23rd, Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci stated that his government saw “the development of relations with Morocco as a priority. Algeria would rather look at the issue of reopening the borders within a more general context.”

Medelci confirmed that the joint committee on Algerian-Moroccan co-operation should meet in 2012 – the first such meeting since 1994.

In addition, the two countries have agreed to twice-yearly meetings between their foreign ministers “to evaluate bilateral relations”.

In Algeria, there have been calls for the borders to be opened. However, Abdelaziz Rahabi, the former Algerian communications minister and diplomat, reminded El Watan on January 24th that the Western Sahara dispute predates the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), which was created in 1989. He said the Moroccans now feel, as they did initially, that “good relations” with Algiers “could work as a catalyst in resolving the Sahrawi issue”.

The desire to improve relations with Morocco also extended to Abdellah Djaballah, head of the newly formed Islamist Justice and Development Front (FJD). Speaking on national radio January 24th, he called for “the opening of the borders and unfreezing of UMA institutions”.

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