Spain prepares ‘firm’ response to Algeria’s move to freeze bilateral trade

Diplomatic spat related to Madrid shifting position on disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Spain prepares ‘firm’ response to Algeria’s move to freeze bilateral trade

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said on Thursday that Spain’s response to Algeria’s unilateral move to cut off bilateral trade will be “serene, constructive, but also firm in its defense of Spanish interests.”

On Wednesday, Algeria announced it was suspending its 20-year-old friendship and cooperation treaty with Spain. Later, Algerian daily Tout sur l’Algerie and other media outlets reported that Algeria’s banking association, ABEF, gave the order to all banks to freeze bank operations related to trade with Spain.

Albares has insisted that Algeria, Spain’s second-largest source of natural gas, would not disrupt its gas supplies. However, the ABEF order reportedly gave no exception for energy.

“We are currently analyzing the implications of this measure, both at the national and European level,” said Albares on Thursday, adding that so far, no gas disruption has been reported.

The diplomatic spat is related to the Spanish government recently shifting its position on the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Spain had previously supported Western Sahara’s independence. However, after diplomatic tensions with Morocco surged last year, the government was persuaded to accept the position that Western Sahara should be an autonomous region with Morocco.

Defending his position in Spanish Parliament on Wednesday, Prime Minister Sanchez said Morocco’s vision is the most “credible and realistic way” to end the ongoing conflict.

Algeria, a firm supporter of Western Saharan independence, has described Spain’s U-turn as “a betrayal.”

Algeria’s move has the EU “extremely worried,” said Nabila Massrali, EU spokesperson for foreign affairs, insisting that Algeria is “a key partner for the EU” and “key to stability” in the Mediterranean region.

Spanish daily El Pais reports that Spain is considering denouncing Algeria to the European Union for violating a 2005 EU-Mediterranean agreement.

Hüseyin Demir