Monday, March 27

Blinken avoids friction with Algeria over Russia in full swing over the Sahara

The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, closed his tour of the Middle East and North Africa in Algeria on Wednesday. Neither Blinken nor the Algerian authorities have made reference to the conflict in Ukraine or the gas situation during the meetings. The head of US diplomacy has defended his support and commitment to the UN “to reinforce a credible political process that leads to a lasting and dignified resolution” for Western Sahara, he defended.

On his first visit to the North African country, Blinken met with his Algerian counterpart, Ramtane Lamamra, and with the country’s president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune. “We have focused on promising opportunities to strengthen our bilateral partnership”, Lamamra stated on social media after the meeting

In the absence of knowing more details of the meeting, in the different communiqués published by the Algerian and American authorities, no reference has been made to the conflict in Ukraine during the visit. Algiers has historically been one of Moscow’s most important allies in the Maghreb. In addition, the North African country abstained in the vote in early March at the UN to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In contrast, in recent days, Blinken has spared no criticism of the Kremlin for the invasion and has called for an end to hostilities.

The Algerian role in the Sahel

The economic relations between the two countries, regional stability and peace have been the issues that have focused an important part of the visit: “We advance in our commitment to promote peace and stability at a regional and international level”, stated the head of Algerian diplomacy. Blinken has defended Algeria’s “key role” in the Sahel. “We are both very concerned about the destabilizing presence of terrorist groups in the Sahel, and we both want security and prosperity in the region,” he said.

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One day before landing in Algiers, Blinken visited Morocco and, in addition to defending the role of the UN in resolving the dispute in Western Sahara, showed his support for the Moroccan proposal for autonomy for the former Spanish colony. “It is a serious, credible and realistic proposal,” defended the head of US diplomacy.

Algerian gas

Algeria and the United States are the main suppliers of gas to Spain, a large part of the Algerian gas arrives by gas pipeline and the North American gas with ships in the form of liquefied gas. The Algerian authorities have not given any other details of the meeting and it is unknown if this issue has been on the table. In the global context of uncertainty due to the conflict in Ukraine, Algeria has become an important country to reduce European dependence on Russian gas.

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Experts point out that Algeria’s capacity to export gas on a large scale is limited, although it currently has one of the most valuable reserves on the planet. In addition, the state hydrocarbons company in Algeria (Sonatrach), has announced this week that they have discovered new gas reserves and oil in the south of the country. According to the company, it has “successfully completed two discoveries of great potential” in the towns of Al Bayadh and Touggourt.

Relations between Spain and Algeria

Another factor that adds uncertainty is Spain’s recent rapprochement with Morocco after defending that the Moroccan proposal for autonomy for Western Sahara is “the most serious, credible and reasonable basis” to find a way out within the framework of the United Nations. After this change of position of the Spanish Executive, Algeria called its Ambassador in Madrid for consultations which, for the time being, continues in Algeria. The North African authorities also expressed their “surprise” at what they described as a “sudden change in the Spanish position”.

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