The summit that has the potential to end tensions between Morocco and Algeria has not got off on the right foot. A Moroccan delegation led by Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita landed yesterday at Algiers international airport to take part in the meeting of Arab League foreign ministers preceding the Arab League summit.
On their arrival at Houari Boumedienne airport, the Moroccan delegation complained that they had not been received by the Algerian authorities in the same way as the other delegations. This lack of protocol, which, according to circles close to Rabat, shows attempts by the Tebboune government to seek a wound even before the official start of the summit.
A second stumbling block occurred at the ministers' meeting when Rabat's envoys realised that the map shown by the Algerian news channel collaborating with the Arab League did not show the borders recognised by Morocco as far as the Sahara was concerned.
En marge des travaux de la réunion préparatoire des ministres des Affaires Etrangères du Conseil @arableague_gs au niveau du Sommet, M. Nasser Bourita s'est entretenu, aujourd'hui à Alger, avec ses homologues de différents pays arabes ainsi qu'avec d'autres responsables. pic.twitter.com/k2gHBwykGF— Maroc Diplomatie ?? (@MarocDiplomatie) October 29, 2022
The Arab League had to issue a statement clarifying that it chooses to show maps of the Arab world with no borders, a way to avoid confrontation between members of the international body. The situation at the airport and in the meeting room raised enough dust to generate several rumours that Bourita's delegation had left Algiers in response to this disrespect.
A statement from the Foreign Ministry, picked up by the official news agency MAP, denies these rumours and affirms that the Moroccan delegation did not leave the meeting of foreign ministers. "The Moroccan delegation remained in the room and protested against the non-respect by an Algerian channel of the map of the Kingdom, as recognised, which forced the Arab League to issue a clarification and the presidency of the session to apologise, the same source added," the Moroccan news agency's statement said.
Morocco's recent accusations that Iran is supplying war drones to the Polisario Front may be yet another issue that will create a standoff at the summit, which officially begins next Tuesday. According to Moroccan foreign sources, quoted by the Emirati media Al-Arab, Morocco intends to add this issue to the summit's agenda.
According to the same source, the Algerian Foreign Ministry, headed by Ramtame Lamamra, has refused to include the potential military collaboration between Iran and the Polisario Front on the agenda of the summit.
The issue is of great importance to Morocco, which denounced the facts through its representative to the United Nations. Morocco is striving to be part of the US military aid plan for countries under military threat from Iran. This project of the US Department of Defence, which enjoys an extraordinary budget allocation for international defence development, aims to create an anti-aircraft defence network for several Gulf and Middle Eastern countries, in addition to Morocco.
The situation of the last few days casts serious doubts on King Mohammed VI's participation in the summit, as had been speculated for weeks. As a monarch, Mohammed VI has always avoided situations in which protocol could be unfavourable to him. If the Moroccan delegation's accusations are true, the Algerian organisation would not be giving sufficient guarantees for the Moroccan head of state to travel to Algiers.
Earlier today, António Guterres, the UN Secretary General, announced that he would delay his arrival in Algiers for another day. Some Arab world leaders, such as Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, will not be attending the summit. However, the summit is expected to be one of the most important of the decade, marked by the rapprochement of many Arab governments towards Israel through the Abraham Accords.