‘Foreign manoeuvres’ in Western Sahara destablising Algeria: PM

Algerian PM Abdelaziz Djerad fears instability around his country following normalisation deal between Israel and Morocco.

Polisario Front soldiers stand at an entrance of the fifth sector base in Bir Lahlou, Western Sahara, September 9, 2016.
Polisario Front soldiers stand at an entrance of the fifth sector base in Bir Lehlou, Western Sahara [File: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters]

Algeria’s prime minister has criticised “foreign manoeuvres” that he says are aimed to destabilise it, after the United States recognised Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara in exchange for Rabat normalising ties with Israel.

“There are foreign manoeuvres which aim to destabilise Algeria,” Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad on Saturday said, in Algeria’s first reaction to the US decision.

“There is now a desire by the Zionist entity to come closer to our borders,” he said, referring to Israel.

Algeria, Morocco’s neighbour and regional rival, is the key foreign backer of the Polisario Front, which has campaigned for independence for the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara since the 1970s.

“We are seeing today at our borders … wars and instability around Algeria,” Djerad said during a speech to mark the anniversary of demonstrations against French colonial rule.

The announcement by outgoing US President Donald Trump on Thursday of Washington’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara was swiftly dismissed by the Polisario, which has vowed to fight on until Moroccan forces withdraw.

The Polisario had already announced last month that it regarded a 1991 ceasefire as over after Morocco sent troops into a United Nations-patrolled buffer zone to reopen the road to neighbouring Mauritania – Morocco’s sole land link to sub-Saharan Africa.

The Polisario has since claimed that repeated exchanges of fire have taken place along the 2,700-km (1,700-mile) sand barrier that separates the two sides.

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), which Polisario leaders proclaimed in 1976, is a member of the African Union but controls just 20 percent of the territory, mostly empty desert.

The territory’s main sources of revenue – its phosphate deposits and rich Atlantic fisheries – are all in Moroccan hands.

As a result, the Polisario is heavily dependent on support from Algeria, where it operates rear-bases and runs camps for tens of thousands of Sahrawi refugees.

For the Polisario, Algeria’s support would be essential for any return to major fighting.

Source: AFP