Algeria has summoned Morocco’s ambassador to Algiers in protest against a hostile remark allegedly made by a Moroccan diplomat, the official APS news agency reported.
Tensions between the two regional rivals arose after the Moroccan consul in the Algerian city of Oran purportedly referred to Algeria as an “enemy country”, the report said.
The alleged comments came while the consul was addressing a crowd of Moroccans gathered outside the consulate in Oran to demand repatriation during the coronavirus pandemic.
In response, the Algerian Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum summoned the Moroccan ambassador on Wednesday to “confront” him with the alleged remark, APS said, citing the foreign ministry.
“The qualification by the consul general … if it were to be established … is a serious violation of diplomatic habits and customs, which cannot be tolerated,” read the foreign ministry’s statement.
The ministry advised Morocco to “take appropriate measures to avoid any repercussions of this incident on the ties” between the two countries.
Morocco is yet to comment on the development. But the country’s media quoted the consul general in Oran as denying the statement and saying his remark had been fabricated.
Algiers and Rabat have for decades struggled to mend ties, with the tensions between them dating back to the early 1960s, when the two countries gained independence from colonial France.
Their relations worsened after Morocco annexed the phosphate-rich Western Sahara after Spain withdrew from the region in 1975.
Western Sahara’s Polisario Front, which is backed by Algeria, demands an independence vote, which Morocco has refused.
Algeria backs the Polisario Front, a secessionist movement demanding independence from Morocco.
Morocco has also accused Algeria of masterminding a “terrorist” attack on its soil in 1994, and reacted by imposing mandatory visa for visiting Algerian nationals.
Algiers reciprocated, extending tit-for-tat visa restrictions on the Moroccans and shutting the border with its western neighbour.