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Muslim blocs press Algeria and Morocco to mend diplomatic ties

Algiers has long been at odds with Rabat on issues such as Western Sahara.

General view of the Arab leaders during the 14th Islamic summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, June 1, 2019. (Reuters)

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Arab League and Saudi Arabia have called for “dialogue” to resolve arguments between neighbouring Algeria and Morocco.

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Algeria said on Tuesday it had cut diplomatic relations with Morocco because of “hostile actions”, following months of resurgent tensions between the North African rivals.

The OIC “called for dialogue to resolve any possible differences”, a statement from the Jeddah-based organisation said on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia called on both nations “to prioritise dialogue” to help “achieve security and stability”, a foreign ministry statement read.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit urged “both countries to exercise restraint and to avoid further escalation” in a statement late Tuesday.

Libya, which borders Algeria, said it “deeply regrets” the deterioration of relations and asked for “restraint”, in a statement from the foreign ministry.

Tripoli also called for regional talks on the sidelines of the next Arab League meeting, scheduled for September 7 to 9 in Cairo.

Algiers has long been at odds with Rabat – particularly over the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony Morocco sees as an integral part of its territory, but where Algiers has supported the Polisario independence movement.

Their rivalry took a new twist last year when outgoing US president Donald Trump recognised Moroccan sovereignty over the territory – in exchange for Morocco normalising ties with Israel.

For Algeria, that amounted to Rabat “introducing a foreign military force into the Maghreb”, in the words of Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra on Tuesday.

Morocco’s foreign ministry bit back, saying Algiers’ move was “completely unjustified”.

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