Pedro Canales, an international analyst specialising in the Maghreb, spoke on Onda Madrid's "De Cara al Mundo" to analyse Algeria's urgent diplomatic offensive

Algeria's diplomatic offensive

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

Algeria's president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, has launched a diplomatic offensive with the aim of counteracting the increase in international support for Morocco's proposal for broad autonomy for Western Sahara under its sovereignty. A geopolitical scenario that we analyse with Pedro Canales, international analyst of the Maghreb and contributor to the magazine Atalayar, in an interview on "De Cara al Mundo" on Onda Madrid with Javier Fernández Arribas.  

Does the Algerian government need this diplomatic offensive? 

It needs it, and urgently. The first visit, the most important one, is that of President Tebboune to Moscow, which I believe has two aspects: one military and the other political. On the military side, Algiers wants Russia - on which it depends for 80% of its armaments - to supply it with modern weapons, missile systems and drones with which it can compete with those it is receiving or will receive from Morocco, its geopolitical rival in the Maghreb, and which come from Israel, China and the United States, above all. 

PHOTO/ARCHIVO - Pedro Canales, analista internacional especializado en el Magreb
PHOTO/ARCHIVO - Pedro Canales, international analyst specialising in the Maghreb region

But Tebboune has not succeeded. The Russians need these weapons for the war in Ukraine and can only sell scrap that they do not need: tanks, cargo planes, a few defensive submarines, a few modern fighters, but of a secondary level. For obvious reasons, they are keeping the main ones for themselves.  

In addition, there is a problem, which the Russians have raised with the Algerians, and that is the payment of arms. Algiers currently has an outstanding debt of some $10 billion with Russia that it cannot pay because of Western sanctions on the Russian banking system. Russia wants it either to be paid in another currency as the Indians, Brazilians or Chinese do, or to be paid by barter or through third parties. So far there is no agreement. 

As for the political side of the visit, I think it was limited to a message or a warning from Algeria to France and the United States, but in reality Algeria got little or nothing out of the missive. Moscow has neither actively nor passively pledged to support Algeria in its mini-war against Morocco. Putin has not said a single word about independence or self-determination for Western Sahara. 

On the same day that Tebboune arrived in Moscow, the TASS Agency published a report on Russian trade in Africa, noting that the non-arms trade balance between Russia and Morocco is five times higher than Russia's with Algeria, indicating where priorities may lie. 

How does Tebboune's embrace of Putin in Moscow fit in with the Algerian Foreign Minister's visit to Italy, Serbia and Germany? 

In the case of Italy, I think it is a bit of reassurance to the Italians that Algeria will deliver on gas supplies. The Italians are beginning to suspect that Algeria does not have sufficient production capacity to supply all the gas they need, and that really worries the Italians in the Italian boot a lot. 

As for Serbia and Germany, Algerian diplomacy wants to put the brakes on the two countries' approach, which relies much more on the autonomy offered by Morocco to resolve the crisis in Western Sahara. The former Serbian Foreign Minister has already done so, and Germany has also spoken along the same lines. Not only that, but Germany supports the Moroccan proposal and the UN Secretary General's decision to send his special envoy, Staffan de Mistura, to convene the four parties to discuss and work out a stable and lasting agreement in principle.  

Algeria does not want to hear about it and says that only Morocco and the Polisario Front should negotiate. Neither Serbia nor Germany are in favour of such a proposal. The Algerian offensive goes in that direction, that of trying to seek support by promising things it may not be able to deliver. In the German case, a promise to buy weapons and a promise to revive the old Desertec project in the Algerian Sahara in order to develop enough solar energy plants to export that energy to Europe. 

We are moving from one country to another in North Africa. We read an interesting article of yours in Atalayar about the succession in Morocco and how everything is well prepared for a future that we will see when it happens, especially with what has happened with the news of King Mohammed VI's state of health.  

I believe that the issue of succession in Morocco is a problem that is not a problem, that is to say, there really is no dispute. First, because there is a legal system, which is the Constitution, and which makes Moulay Hassan, the son of Mohammed VI, who is now of age, the sole heir and successor. 

Second, because all the country's de facto powers are unanimous in their support for Moulay Hassan's succession: the religious apparatus, the armed forces, the state administration and the political class. They all support the succession.  

The only question mark I see is whether King Mohammed VI, given his delicate health problems, can find a formula to pass the presidency to the successor, bringing forward the dates. In any case, this would in no way imply any institutional destabilisation. There are many people who foresee dark clouds of crisis, as we have seen in Spain and also in Europe, but they are those who believe that they have much to lose in power and wealth with the arrival of the new king. I believe that the most peaceful succession in the world is the Moroccan succession. This is fundamental for Spain.