Algeria denies suspending friendship treaty with Spain

MADRID (AP) — Algeria appeared to back down in its dispute with Spain on Friday after its mission to the European Union issued a statement saying the northwest African country had never suspended the treaty of friendship which he had concluded with Spain.

In a strange development, Algeria said: “Regarding the alleged measure taken by the government to stop ongoing transactions with a European partner, it in fact only exists in the minds of those who claim it. and of those who hastened to stigmatize it”.

There was no immediate comment from the Spanish government.

The statement came hours after senior European Union officials said the bloc was treating the crisis between Algeria and Spain with ‘the utmost concern’ and warned it was ready to take action. to defend the interests of its members.

The Algerian mission stated that it “deplores the haste with which the European Commission reacted without consultation or prior verification with the Algerian government to Algeria’s suspension of a bilateral political treaty with a European partner, in this case Spain”.

The Algerian president’s office announced on Wednesday that the North African nation was “immediately” suspending a two-decade-old friendship treaty with Spain, indicating a freeze on trade and cooperation between the two countries.

The suspension was seen as the latest move by Algeria to put pressure on Madrid after changing its longstanding policy regarding the disputed territory of Western Sahara. Algeria recalled its ambassador to Spain in March after Madrid came out in favor of Morocco’s attempts to keep Western Sahara under its control. Algeria supports the territory’s independence movement.

Earlier on Friday, European Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis and EU Foreign Affairs Chief Josep Borrell issued a statement saying the suspension decision appeared to “violate the Association Agreement EU-Algeria, particularly in the area of ​​trade and investment”.

“This would lead to discriminatory treatment of an EU member state and harm the exercise of the Union’s rights under the agreement,” the EU said.

While calling for dialogue to resolve the dispute, EU officials said “the EU stands ready to oppose any type of coercive measures applied against” an EU country.

The statement came after Spanish Foreign Minister José Albares traveled to Brussels to discuss the crisis.

Albares said the “unilateral step” taken by Algeria violated the agreement with the EU but insisted that “what we want is dialogue and we are not going to give any excuse for a any escalation”.

The EU urged Algeria on Thursday to reconsider its decision.

Spain’s main concern was that the suspension could affect large gas supplies from Algeria, but the government said that so far this has not happened. Algeria supplies 23% of Spain’s gas needs.

Spain and the rest of the 27-nation bloc are now scrambling to find alternatives to Russian energy imports in protest against Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Spain was the colonial power in Western Sahara until its annexation by Morocco in 1975. Since then, Algerian and Moroccan neighbors have been at odds over the region’s fate.