The Algerian Foreign Minister, Ahmed Attaf, has compared the Sahara issue to the Kosovo crisis in Belgrade

Algeria, in search of European allies in Italy, Serbia and Germany

PHOTO/TWITTER/MINISTERIO DE RELACIONES EXTERIORES DE ARGELIA – El ministro de Exteriores argelino, Ahmed Ataff, con su homólogo serbio, Ivica Dacic, en una visita oficial en Belgrado
PHOTO/TWITTER/MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF ALGERIA - Algerian Foreign Minister Ahmed Ataff with his Serbian counterpart Ivica Dacic on an official visit to Belgrade

Unrestrained diplomacy. Abdelmadjid Tebboune has activated his foreign policy machinery to secure Algeria's European partners in the North African geopolitical game. On the orders of El Mouradia's strongmen, Algerian Foreign Minister Ahmed Attaf is visiting the capitals of Italy, Serbia and Germany to confirm that the steps taken by Tebboune during his visit to Moscow are going in the right direction. 

"Consolidating political dialogue on issues that concern the fundamental interests and the main interests of Algeria and its partners", were the precise words of the head of diplomacy. But far from cordial exchanges of views on changes in the regional and international arena, Algeria's mission in Europe is focused on the main thermometer in the Maghreb: Western Sahara. This is the issue on which the Spanish and German governments have already opted by supporting Morocco's sovereignty plan.

SPUTNIK/MIKHAIL METZEL - El presidente ruso, Vladimir Putin, y el presidente de Argelia, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, asisten a una ceremonia de firma luego de sus conversaciones en el Kremlin en Moscú el 15 de junio de 2023
SPUTNIK/MIKHAIL METZEL - Russian President Vladimir Putin and Algeria's President Abdelmadjid Tebboune attend a signing ceremony following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on 15 June 2023

The European tour has a growing difficulty in the order of countries visited by the Algerian chancellor. Georgia Meloni's ally Italy was the first stop for Ahmed Attaf, the country considered a "strategic partner" because of its agreements on gas supplies, but with which he has little political contact. In Rome, Attaf met with his counterpart, Antonio Tajani, assessing the relationship between the two countries following Tebboune's high-level visits to Italy and those of Sergio Mattarella and Giorgia Meloni to Algiers.  

Having reiterated the attachment to the Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighbourliness and Cooperation with Italy, which celebrated its 20th anniversary earlier this year, all that remained was to celebrate Meloni's ties with the Saharawis in exchange for Italy's commercial position in Algeria. 

Next stop: Putin's ally Serbia 

It was a visit with certain guarantees. Serbia's cooperative relationship with Russia after the Kremlin's repeated support for Belgrade in the Kosovo crisis counts in Algiers' favour, but with Ivica Dacic's foreign ministry there are always issues to be resolved. The tension between Algeria and Serbia remained unresolved after the latter acknowledged in Rabat that the two countries had "the same principled position of respect for the territorial integrity of each country". In return, Morocco maintained its non-recognition of Kosovo's independence. 

The statement set off alarm bells in Algiers, which rushed Belgrade to rectify its position, justifying it as "erroneous interpretations" by "foreign media". According to the statement, Serbia's position on the Western Sahara issue then remained "unchanged and consistent with the provisions of international law and UN Security Council resolutions".  

All clarified until May 2021, when former Serbian Foreign Minister Nicola Selakovic said, again in Rabat, that the Moroccan autonomy plan for the Sahara was a "serious and credible" option, and that Belgrade supported "a consensual and lasting policy". 

It was against this background that the Algerian Foreign Minister was received in Belgrade. President Aleksandar Vucic himself received Ahmed Attaf, who conveyed President Tebboune's greetings and renewed his invitation to visit Algeria "in order to work together to give a new impetus to Algerian-Serbian relations". Vucic accepted the invitation and expressed his hope that it would "constitute a new stage in relations between Serbia and Algeria".

AFP/ EMMANUEL DUNAND  - El presidente serbio, Aleksander Vucic
AFP/ EMMANUEL DUNAND  - Serbian President Aleksander Vucic

Cordialities aside, Attaf sought to clarify Serbia's position on the Sahara by comparing the similarities that, according to the Algerian minister, it shares with Kosovo. "You know very well our positions on sensitive issues for your country, particularly the issue of Kosovo", Attaf said. Two same scenarios whose origin is "the transgression of the principle of the sanctity of borders for Kosovo and the principle of respect for borders inherited from colonisation for Western Sahara", as the ministry said in a press release.  

According to the Algerian Foreign Ministry, Ivica Dacic assured "his country's commitment not to undermine Algeria's positions and its fundamental interests, particularly in its region", referring to the Sahara. A version that clashes with Serbian Nicola Selakovic's recognition of the Moroccan plan in Rabat in 2021. 

Germany, the most difficult step 

Following in Washington's footsteps, Berlin backed Morocco's autonomy plan for Western Sahara after a visit by the German foreign minister in Rabat. An irreversible step that Ahmed Attaf must count on during his visit to the German capital. Nor will Tebboune's recent visit to Moscow and repeated support for Putin at a time of war on European soil, where Berlin has been the first to endorse all sanctions on the invader, help in this case.