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Rabat – Algeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sabri Boukadoum has returned home from Spain without the Western Sahara statement he was looking for.
Boukadoum went on his first visit to Spain with a particular mission. That mission became apparent after the foreign minister made statements to Spanish newspaper El Pais about Spain and Western Sahara on March 30. Algeria’s Press Service broadcasted the statements, urging Spain to become more involved in the issue.
Ahead of the meeting Algeria’s FM had publicly called out Spain’s “historical responsibility” regarding the region while speaking to El Pais. “We have to fix it,” he told the newspaper as he emphasized that “Sahrawis have strong roots in Spain, I have not met anyone who does not have a connection, not even the young.”
Boukadoum’s interview to one of Spain’s leading newspapers clearly revealed his mission in the country. In an apparent effort to increase the pressure on Spanish foreign affairs, Algeria is calling on Spain to become more involved in Western Sahara.
The statements themselves are remarkable as Algeria is the key backer of the Polisario Front, yet it denies any involvement in the conflict when it comes to UN processes.
Algeria’s mission to urge Spain to become more involved appears to have failed as Boukadoum returned to Algiers empty-handed.
The press conference following Boukadoum’s first official visit to Spain showed a very different focus compared to his statements prior to the meeting.
While Algeria had meant to make Western Sahara a priority, the press conference neglected to mention the issue even once. The two officials exchanged the usual diplomatic niceties, including common vows to step up cooperation, but kept Morocco’s prime foreign policy issue off the table.
For keen watchers of Moroccan foreign affairs, this is unlikely to come as a surprise. Spain in recent months has made repeated overtures to Morocco in an apparent effort to defuse tensions. Meanwhile the Royal Spanish Football Federation deepened its links with women’s football in Dakhla, in the Western Sahara region in southern Morocco.
Despite borders between Spain and Morocco remaining ostensibly closed, the relations between both countries appear to have only improved in recent times. Spain’s government on February 17 stated that Spain has “no international responsibility” regarding Western Sahara.
If Algeria intends to see Spain become more involved in the issue, it could stand to benefit from first recognizing its own heavy influence on the issue.
With recent border tensions, Algeria has shown itself to be content instigating foreign policy challenges. It appears to do so in order to distract its own population, which every Friday organizes protests that highlight the deep disconnect between citizens and Algeria’s ruling elite.