Morocco has recalled its ambassador to Algiers for consultations over remarks made by the Algerian president over the disputed Western Sahara region.
A Foreign Ministry statement said on Wednesday that the decision followed “numerous provocative acts and hostilities by Algeria toward the kingdom, particular with regard to the regional dispute over the Moroccan Sahara.”
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika called on Monday for human rights monitoring in the Western Sahara, which was annexed by Morocco in 1975.
Afterward, in statements in the official press, Morocco accused Algeria of exploiting human rights issues to further its own interests in the region.
Algeria termed Morocco’s decision to recall envoy as unjustified.
“This is an unjustified decision, amounting to an unfortunate escalation based on spurious motives, and detrimental to the sovereignty of Algeria,” a foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement sent to AFP.
But despite its protest, Algiers said it would keep its diplomats in Morocco.
The regional rivals are on the opposite sides of the Western Sahara issue, with Algeria hosting the Polisario movement that is fighting for the territory’s independence.
The latest developments came as UN special envoy Dennis Ross briefed the Security Council on his stuttering efforts to bring Morocco and the Polisario Front to the negotiating table.
Ross went to Morocco, Western Sahara, Algeria and Mauritania this month in a bid to break the deadlock with shuttle diplomacy talks
Ross said on Wednesday there was still no hope of convening face-to-face talks on the disputed territory between Morocco and pro-independence rebels.
“He intends to return to the region in the coming weeks to pursue this new approach,” said a UN statement released after the Security Council talks.
“He will convene another round of face-to-face negotiations between the parties only when prospects for progress at a joint meeting of the parties improve,” the statement added.
The frontier between Morocco and Algeria has been closed since 1994 amid relations soured by their animosity over Western Sahara, a sparsely populated territory between them.
Algeria is the key backer of the Polisario Front, which fought the Moroccan army until a UN-brokered ceasefire in 1991.