The severance of Polisario contacts with Spain augurs a new Algerian escalation | Mohamed Alaoui


The Polisario Front and behind it Algeria reacted to Spain’s decision to support Morocco’s autonomy initiative as the basis for a solution to the Sahara issue by putting an end to contacts between the Polisario and Madrid.

The Polisario announced on Sunday a “break” in contact with the Spanish government to protest against the change in policy by Madrid, which last month declared in Morocco that it considered Morocco’s autonomy initiative as “serious, credible and realistic”.

“The Polisario Front has decided to break off contact with the current Spanish government” for its “instrumentalization of the Western Sahara issue,” the movement said in a statement.

He added that the break would last until Madrid “complies with the decisions of international legality, which recognizes the right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination and respect for the borders of their country, as they are internationally recognized. “.

Mohammed Tayyar, a researcher in strategic and security studies, told The Arab Weekly: “The Polisario’s announcement of the suspension of contacts with the current Spanish government is essentially a new measure taken by its boss, Algeria, after realizing that the recall of its ambassador from Madrid does not affect the new course of relations between Spain and Morocco, nor does it prevent Madrid from confirming its commitment to its new position on the Moroccan Sahara issue.

Tayyar noted that “the Polisario declaration coincided with the visit of the Spanish Prime Minister to Morocco and the removal by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the border line separating Morocco and its southern provinces on its official map, which reflects the decisive impact of Spanish political change and illustrated the threat that Madrid’s decision represents for the designs of Algeria and the Polisario.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco last week hosted Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez during a historic visit, which marked the restoration of relations between the two countries.

Algeria had recalled its ambassador to Madrid for consultations, after Spain’s decision, which reflected its shock at Spain’s unexpected move. Algiers described Spain’s decision to back the Moroccan initiative as “Spain’s second historic betrayal of the Sahrawi people”.

The Polisario office in Madrid is registered as an NGO and not as an official foreign body. All official Spanish contacts regarding the status of the Tindouf camps on Algerian soil are made through the Algerian Embassy in Madrid, as Algeria is legally responsible for the camps.

Tayyar said: “As it announces the suspension of its contacts with the current Spanish government, the Polisario hopes for the coming to power of a new government which would restore Madrid’s previous position and this alone is proof of the inability of Algeria and the Polisario to correctly interpret the balance shifts and new developments regarding the Moroccan Sahara issue and how Morocco finally resolved the whole artificial problem.

Analysts expect another escalation from Algeria against Spain in the near future to put pressure on Madrid in hopes of forcing them to back down.

Former Algerian minister and diplomat, Abdelaziz Rehabi, said he expects Algeria to use the migration card, as it shares borders with seven countries in Africa, in addition to the gas lever, in order to put pressure on the Spanish government to change its position.

Sanchez was not shy about defending his decision to support the autonomy initiative. He noted that it is similar to the decisions of other countries such as France, Germany and the United States and underlined that the Madrid decision allowed the normalization of relations with Morocco.

Commenting on the end of the Polisario’s contacts with Madrid, Mohamed Salem Abdelfattah, head of the Sahrawi Media and Human Rights Observatory, declared: “If the Polisario intends to hinder the humanitarian support of official and Spanish civilians to the population of the Tindouf camps, led by the Spanish Cooperation Agency, the residents of these camps will be affected by this type of decision, not Spain”.

For decades, Algeria has played a major role in the conflict over the Sahara issue through its support for the Polisario Front. The international community sees the North African country as part of the problem, an assessment that Algiers opposes despite its involvement at all levels in the conflict.

The Security Council asked the UN envoy Staffan de Mistura to resume round tables with the four parties, namely Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and the Polisario Front, but Algeria refused to ‘participate.

The UN Security Council is scheduled to hold a session on April 20 on the Sahara issue, during which de Mistura will report for the first time on the current state of the crisis following his latest tour. In the region.

According to Tayyar, the Polisario declaration could actually signal the end of the front itself, after Spain abandoned its leaders, most of whom, led by their leader Ibrahim Ghali, hold Spanish nationality,

Tensions between Madrid and Rabat erupted in April 2021 when he allowed Ghali to be treated for COVID-19 in a Spanish hospital under a false identity, then allowed him to be smuggled out of the country when an action civil lawsuit had been brought against him.