Algerian gas, offshore field, Sebta and Mellilia… the cards used to bend Sanchez

The March 14 card sent by Pedro Sanchez to the sovereign was followed by the visit of the Spanish leader to Rabat on April 7 to finally mark the end of Madrid’s “neutrality” on the Moroccan Sahara issue and avert side of the crisis between the two Kingdoms, continues to make headlines across the Strait of Gibraltar.

Tebboune blows hot and cold

In times of crisis and skyrocketing energy prices, many people in Spain check Algiers signals. Struck by the Sanchez government’s decision to align itself with the Moroccan position, the Algerian regime quickly recalled its ambassador (March 19). The television interview of Algerian President Abdemajid Tebboune for the Algerian public broadcaster was followed by Spanish observers and commented: “We had very solid relations with the Spanish state, but Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez broke everything,” said the Algerian President.

The latter thus necessitated the return to normality between Madrid and Algiers from the revision of Moncloa’s position on the Moroccan Sahara. Despite a very critical speech to Pedro Sanchez, the Algerian President has not used the fuel card. “Algeria will not give up its commitment to deliver gas to Spain under any circumstances,” Tebboune said in his interview.

A exit meant to calm Spanish public opinion, but which also reflects a mutual dependence between Madrid and Algiers, as the Algerian regime cannot afford to stop or even reduce gas supplies to Spain. The recent meeting between the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrel, and the Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra in Doha could also explain Tebboune’s de-escalation on the gas issue.

EU to the rescue

According to the Spanish press, Borrel played the role of mediator between the heads of the Spanish and Algerian diplomats. After this meeting, the Algerian regime is said to have undertaken not to play the gas card against the Spanish government. Algiers also decided on April 13 to suspend livestock import licenses for Spanish breeders/exporters.

It is worth remembering that the Algerian market is the leading buyer of calves raised in Spain, with just over 20,000 tons of live imported animals worth 47 million euros, to which are added almost 9 million euros of processed veal imports. Prior to this media appearance by Tebboune, the attention of Spanish observers was focused on the recent discoveries of oil off the southern coast of Morocco.

Offshore reconnaissance that opponents of the Sanchez government were quick to describe as further evidence of “Moroccan duplicity” and Rabat’s desire to present Madrid with a fait accompli. Initially promoted by politicians from the Canary Islands, these elements quickly spread to Spain, especially in the press media, without taking into account that these offshore deposits are located in the heart of Morocco’s exclusive economic zone.

Shortly before that, the attention of the Spanish media and part of the political class was focused on the situation in the occupied towns of Sebta and Mellilia. Curiously, the possibility of the border crossings opening anytime soon following charges of economic blockade the kingdom would be conducting against the two cities is viewed with a bad eye.

Sebta and Melilia

The far-right Vox formation is multiplying its trial balloons to include the two occupied cities under the NATO umbrella, an option which, it should be recalled, was swept out of hand by the executive and unsupported by NATO’s conservatives, partido popular . Despite the failure of its bill in Parliament, Vox continues to raise the issue in all of its party actions and speeches to the media.

Debate also rages on over the modalities of reopening the borders of the occupied cities of Sebta and Mellilia, abandoning the visa exemption for residents of neighboring Wilayas, installing new facial recognition technologies, and where a trade custom to be implemented in Sebta are often mentioned.

There, too, the Spanish press evokes the Moroccan authorities’ penchant for the politics of fait accompli, without any movement or change on the ground on the Spanish side. The demonstrations by the residents of Mellilia and Sebta for the reopening of the borders were automatically cited as evidence of the pressure exerted by the Moroccan authorities on their Spanish counterparts.

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