Spain pledges to defend its interests after the cessation of trade in Algeria, except for the flow of gas

Band Belén Carreño and Inti Landauro

MADRID, June 9 (Reuters)The Spanish government will “firmly defend” its national interests following Algeria’s decision to suspend a 20-year-old friendship and cooperation treaty and ban all non-gas trade with Spain, it said on Thursday. the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Jose Manuel Albares told reporters that Spain was also monitoring gas flows from Algeria, which account for almost half of Spain’s gas imports, and said they were not affected by the diplomatic row over Madrid’s position in the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Algeria’s banking association said on Wednesday that payments to and from Spain were stopping due to the suspension of the treaty, which Algerian sources say affects all trade except supply. in gas.

“We are analyzing the scope and the national and European consequences of this measure in a calm and constructive way, but also with firmness in the defense of Spain and the interests of Spaniards and Spanish companies,” Albares told reporters.

Spanish exports to Algeria include iron and steel, machinery, paper products, fuel and plastics, while service exports include construction, banking and insurance.

Spanish energy companies Naturgy NTGY.MCRepsol REP.MC and Cepsa have contracts with the Algerian public gas company Sonatrach.

Spain’s Energy Minister Teresa Ribera was confident Sonatrach would honor its commercial contracts, but acknowledged the row between the two nations comes at a delicate time as prices for 10-year supply contracts are in the works. review by the companies concerned.

North African gas supplies to Europe have become increasingly important this year in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Algeria was angered when Spain said in March it supported a Moroccan plan to offer autonomy to Western Sahara. Algeria supports the Polisario Front movement which demands full independence for the territory, which Morocco considers its own and largely controls.

Algeria severed diplomatic ties with Morocco last year after the Western Sahara conflict erupted again in 2020, nearly three decades after a ceasefire took effect.

Also last year, Algeria decided not to extend a gas export deal via a gas pipeline through Morocco to Spain that made up almost all of Morocco’s gas supply. It supplies Spain through a direct undersea gas pipeline and by ship.

Its treaty with Spain also committed both sides to cooperate in controlling migration flows, so its suspension could become a potential problem for Spain, the European Union and even NATO.

Spain, as host of an upcoming NATO summit, will push for the inclusion of ‘hybrid threats’ such as irregular migration, especially on the southern flank, in the new political roadmap of the military alliance, Albares told Reuters on Wednesday.

Spain’s move towards Morocco’s position on Western Sahara ended a dispute between Madrid and Rabat last year involving both the disputed territory and mass migration.

(Reporting by Emma Pinedo, Belen Carreno and Inti Landauro, Lamine Chikhi in Algiers, Writing by Andrei Khalip; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

((Inti.Landauro@thomsonreuters.com;))

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