Monday, June 6, 2011

The Blame Between Rabat And Algiers

By Mohammad el-Ashab
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 05/06/2011

Opening the closed borders between Morocco and Algeria was out of the question and its persistence all this time was unacceptable. However, the repercussions of the disputes between the two neighbors reached an extent where no distinction could still be made on whether the damages are harming the populations or whether their fragments are affecting the regimes. The border strip has always represented the symbol of agreement or estrangement. Indeed, it is a source of agreement and of quarrel.

This is a new phase of mutual blame. The statements of Algerian Prime Minister Ahmad Ouyahia and the reactions of the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs were needless, since the crisis was always there with or without the presence of a difference in opinions. The major headlines were quite obvious, as blame is accepted when the relationships are normal but becomes worthless when the situation is already deteriorating. It might also have no justification at all except that the two neighboring countries will be participating in a soccer game that almost resembles an emotion-packed confrontation.

Concerning the timing, Rabat and Algiers had come up with an opening up plan including the exchange of governmental visits in the economic and commercial sectors. Indeed, it seemed that economy could achieve what politics had failed to. However, the quick return to square one means that the crisis is too large to contain; or that it requires a high level of political management so that it is able to cancel out the other mutual critics.

This did not take place because the two countries had several diplomatic confrontations, the latest of which being that the Manhasset negotiations around the desert impose themselves from the angle of their reflection on some Moroccan-Algerian agreement that could push in the direction of progress; or from the angle of the continuation of the crisis. Everyone knows that without a positive normalization in the relations of the two countries, the obstacles of this crisis cannot be overcome.

This confrontation was perhaps the reason for canceling out the efforts that were made with the aim of achieving d├ętente. And in order to prevent the impression that the process has been forcefully shoved into a less optimistic direction, media leaks were used that exposed the implication of Algeria in supporting the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, although no official Moroccan side had alluded to this implication.

Algeria has the right to correct its image when it comes to this issue. However, this does not justify making accusations against Morocco, or returning to square one since the most important issues imply that the two countries must forget about their differences; and start implementing the steps for building trust; and tackle the essential issues that touch on the Maghreb structure; mend the gap; coordinate the positions concerning war against terrorism; and set an agenda for democratic reforms based on the sound of the windy changes of the Arab Spring.

Algerians are perhaps the staunchest believers in the concept that dialogue between countries cannot take place through TV channels and the media, but rather through the enhancement of diplomatic channels and through the strengthening of the qualifications. Their sensitivity towards everything done – and even not done – by Morocco is increasing to the extent that they are calling for a calm dialogue via the viable mechanisms. Is Morocco exerting pressure when it commits to the politics of the extended hand in order to re-open the borders? And is Algeria doing the same when it links this to personal givens?

It is neither this nor that. The reasons for proceeding with the closing of the borders have ended years ago, mainly since the time when the two countries decided to cancel out the visa system for both Moroccans and Algerians. This was an encouraging sign at least in order to end the state of cautiousness concerning the reasons behind the hasty decisions made by both sides.

It is important to foresee the path of the relationships between the two countries. The positive thing is that they have renewed the treaty for the borders demarcation and good-neighborliness. They even constituted the bandwagon that led the building of the Maghreb structure. This has taken place while the issue of the desert was still pending. So is there any reason that prevents the re-attempts at achieving [an agreement]? It is perhaps better for both countries to commit to more cooperation with the United Nations in order to end the dispute. Indeed, there is no harm in launching this cooperation by looking into ways to enhance the opportunities of security, weapons, and stability in the entire Maghreb region.

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