In a statement issued by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Endowments, Algeria has condemned recent statements by Ahmed Raissouni, leader of the International Association of Muslim Scholars and a cleric close to the Islamist political formation Justice and Development Party.
The cleric's comments - which referred to reclaiming the borders of the "greater Maghreb" - have been considered by Algiers as "an attack on the sovereignty" of Algeria itself and Mauritania, as well as an "explicit call to attack the sovereignty" of both countries.
Despite Raissouni's controversial statements, analysts argue that this is not the official Moroccan view. "Using Raissouni's statements to attack Morocco and create tension between Morocco and its neighbours shows the bad faith of the Algerian regime," writes journalist Mohamed Mamouni Al Al Allawi in Al-Arab.
Nabil Andalousi, an international analyst, agrees with Al Allawi. "The Algerian regime loses no opportunity to attack Morocco," he tells the Arabic daily. Andalousi accuses Algiers of trying to "strain relations between Morocco and the rest of the countries in the region", although he also points out that, so far, it has failed. The analyst explains that the controversy did not erupt until two weeks after the cleric made the statements. "That is to say, after Algeria had aired it," he adds.
"The main objective of this controversy is to distort the image of the Kingdom of Morocco among Algerian and Mauritanian public opinion and to present it as an expansionist state", explains the analyst.
Andalousi also stresses that Morocco's official vision "has never been one of expansion towards neighbouring countries, quite the contrary". "All Moroccan statements and diplomatic efforts confirm Rabat's defence of national territories", he concludes.
Mauritania, for its part, has condemned the statements without mentioning Morocco. Education Minister and government spokesman Mohamed Maa El-Enein Ould Ayeh rejected the comments as "deplorable". "They have no credibility," he said, according to AMI, the Mauritanian news agency.
Since Mohamed Ould Ghazouani became president of Mauritania, Rabat and Nouakchott have forged closer relations through economic and diplomatic cooperation. Ghazouani has dissociated himself from Algeria on certain issues, such as the Sahara question, but also tries to stay out of the conflict between Rabat and Algiers.