An exclusive interview with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, published on Friday by the French-language daily Le Figaro, has, for the first time since the breakdown of Algerian-Moroccan relations in 2021, included the Algerian politician's explanations. The decision taken was nothing more than "an alternative to the outbreak of war between the two countries", said Tebboune. Several international observers consulted by the Arab media outlet Al Arab argue that this is "further proof that war was indeed an option on the agenda in Algeria's high circles. Especially in military circles'.
The Algerian president's statements in the Le Figaro interview - the main focus of which was, however, on relations between Algiers and Paris - pointed to the difficult relationship with its North African neighbour as far back as the Sands War. A military conflict broke out on the Algerian-Moroccan border in October 1963, when several months of conflictive episodes eventually crystallised into open warfare that began in the regions of Tindouf and Hassi Beida (in Algeria) and subsequently spread to the Moroccan province of Figuig. The rupture of relations in August 2021 was "the result of an accumulation of issues since 1963", Tebboune stressed.
Despite the ceasefire decreed by the Organisation of African Unity in 1964, ties between the two countries have been marked by diplomatic, geopolitical and regional tensions, such as competition in economic and commercial terms, the confrontation over the Western Sahara issue (with Algiers as an ally of the Polisario Front) and border disputes.
Moreover, Tebboune took advantage of the interview to point out that "mediation between us [Morocco and Algeria] is not possible", in reference to rumours about the official visit of Jordan's King Abdullah II to Algeria in December 2022. Rumours claimed that the Jordanian monarch's trip had included in its agenda an attempt at mediation and reconciliation between the neighbouring countries.
Diplomatic ties between Algiers and Rabat officially broke down in August 2021, according to Algeria, due to ongoing disagreements over the Western Sahara issue - which pits the two sides against each other: Morocco advocates the establishment of an autonomy plan that recognises the territories' Moroccan-ness, while Algeria, like the Polisario Front, supports the holding of a referendum on self-determination - and what Tebboune has described as 'repeated hostile acts'.
However, analysts and observers quoted by Al Arab have argued that Algeria's stance towards Morocco is nothing more than an attempt to put pressure on Rabat to influence its position on the Sahara, which in recent months has received the express support of important countries on the international stage, such as the United States and Israel. Moreover, these observers also highlighted Morocco's international strengthening - in much broader terms - such as the signing of military agreements with Tel Aviv, the conduct of joint international military manoeuvres (such as "African Lion", now in its 14th edition, which has brought together European, African and US units), and the modernisation of its military arsenals.