Algeria-Sahara: What is the Meaning of Lakhdar Ibrahimi’s Latest Remarks?

lakhdarLakhdar Ibrahimi’s latest remarks on relations between Algeria and Morocco in the midst of the conflict over the Sahara have not gone unnoticed, as the former head of Algerian diplomacy expressed his “grief at this situation (division between the two countries) which has no raison d’être.”

This is not the first time that Lakhdar Ibrahimi calls for the reopening of borders between Morocco and Algeria. “It is impossible to talk about the great Maghreb as long as the borders between the two brotherly states remain closed,” he said Sunday while delivering a lecture at Chateauneuf Police School, in the presence of the Minister of the Interior and other members of the Algerian cabinet.

It’s high time the two countries “left aside the problem of Western Sahara in order to build up a common economy based on trade exchanges,” said Ibrahimi who also criticized the Algerian leaders who swear that they are Not the instigators of this regional conflict.

But the fact that this seasoned diplomat makes these remarks at this precise moment leaves no doubt that the statement is underpinned by the current situation in Algeria. The country is actually challenged by an acute economic crisis and a fierce struggle between political clans over the succession of ailing President Bouteflika.

The call for reopening borders between Algeria and Morocco is mainly a message addressed by Lakhdar Ibrahimi to the Algerian generals who push dangerously towards an escalation with Morocco. By placing armed elements of the Polisario in the region of Guergarate, a buffer zone in the extreme south of Morocco, on the borders with Mauritania, Algerian brass are exerting pressures that could have unpredictable consequences.

It is precisely against this risk that Lakhdar Ibrahimi wanted to alert the military, by calling on political leaders to re-open the borders to initiate a de-escalation that would be beneficial to the two countries and to the region as a whole.

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