Algiers, Aug 24 (EFE).- Algeria announced Tuesday the suspension of diplomatic relations with Morocco after months of growing tensions between the North African neighbors over issues including Rabat’s normalization with Israel and the kingdom’s efforts to tighten its grip on the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
In a statement, Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra pointed to recent comments by Morocco’s ambassador to the United Nations asserting a right to self-determination for Berbers in Algeria’s Kabylie region.
Lamamra also referred to harsh criticism of the Algerian government by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid during his visit to Morocco earlier this month to celebrate the resumption of bilateral diplomatic relations.
He likewise mentioned revelations by a group of journalists that Morocco purchased Pegasus spyware from Israel’s NSO Group and used it to target thousands of Algerian “politicians, military personnel, intelligence agency heads, high-ranking civil servants, foreign diplomats and activists,” in the words of French daily Le Monde.
The former Spanish colony of Western Sahara has been an object of contention between Rabat and the indigenous Sahrawis for more than four decades.
Morocco invaded the region in 1975 as Spain withdrew. The Polisario Front – supported by Algeria – responded with armed resistance and won a judgment from the World Court backing the Sahrawis’ demand for self-determination.
In 1976, the Polisario proclaimed the independence of the territory as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.
Algeria played a major role in brokering a cease-fire between Morocco and the Polisario in 1991, a pact that envisioned a referendum in Western Sahara on self-determination which has yet to take place.
Though the chief architect for the referendum plan was James Baker, a former United States secretary of state, Washington’s position tilted decisively in favor of Rabat under President Donald Trump.
Last year, during the final months of his term, Trump recognized Morocco’s claim to sovereignty over Western Sahara and said that the US would open a consulate in the territory. EFE