The situation between Morocco and Algeria is going through one of its most tense moments since diplomatic relations between Rabat and Algiers broke down more than a year ago. A crisis that, unsurprisingly, has spilled over into Spain. Spain's stance on the Sahara in favour of its strong Moroccan ally has significantly weakened relations with the Algerians, with Madrid prioritising its relations with the Alawites. However, the King of Jordan, Abdullah II, has entered the scene to try to mediate between the three countries and bring a solution closer to unblocking the stalled energy situation.
On 31 October, Algeria's President Abdelmadjid Tebboune decided to close the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline. Observers described this decision, along with the decision to halt the strategic partnership agreement with Spain in June, as "hasty and ill-conceived". Now, the meeting with the Jordanian monarch seems to open a new scenario in which the reopening of the energy connection is within reach. At least this is how Yamal-Edine Buabdalah, president of the Spanish-Algerian Circle, sees it, telling La Vanguardia that "after many months of uncertainty, I am now optimistic".
From Algeria, however, they were categorical about ties with Spain. As long as Pedro Sánchez is at the head of the government and there is no change of position on the Sahrawi crisis, trade relations between Algiers and Madrid will remain paralysed. Many Spanish companies have been seriously affected as they have not had access to the Algerian market since June, and the solution advocated by Sánchez of a "mutually acceptable political solution" in the Sahara does not convince Algeria, which, according to an Algerian diplomatic source told La Vanguardia, "is not enough to regain confidence".
What the same source does point out is that Algeria supports "King Abdullah's mediation to reopen the GME". He added that he believes that "it could happen very soon, and it will be a step towards normalising trade relations with Spain". The King of Jordan visited Algeria earlier this month, when he was received with the highest honours by President Tebboune. But not before visiting Cairo, where he obtained the approval of Egypt's President Abdelfatah El-Sisi to act as mediator between Algeria and Morocco.
The current tensions in the Rabat-Algeria relationship are not limited to the Sahara, one of the most important issues. Morocco's partnership with the US and Israel has brought Algeria even closer to a strategic alliance with Russia. Even the Moroccan-Algerian military race has accelerated in recent months, with both countries' arms investment increasing considerably. In fact, Algiers has more than doubled last year's defence budget, while the Alawi kingdom has made a record investment in the same portfolio in order to modernise its army.
Abdullah II could be the first to make real progress through mediation after the failures of many countries this year. Attempts by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Mauritania have had no effect. Nor have those of Italy, France, the European Union or Spain itself. Now, the opening of the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline could be the first step towards a meeting between representatives of Morocco and Algeria, which is expected to take place in Switzerland "very soon".
The invitation made by the Moroccan King Mohammed VI to President Tebboune for a high-level meeting, which did not receive a positive response from the Algerian, could now be closer. The role of the Jordanian king seems key to unblocking a complex situation that has been immersed in a climate of constant tension for more than a year, which directly affects Spain. However, what is clear in Madrid is that its proximity to Morocco is a priority over a possible rapprochement with Algeria that could jeopardise relations with the Kingdom.