While the issue of Russian energy exports has just reached a boiling point with a new round of sanctions proposed by the European Commission, Algeria has warned Spain that it could suspend natural gas transfers should Madrid continue its support for Morocco.
Algeria has learned that the Spanish government, led by Pedro Sánchez, has reached an agreement with Morocco to help regasify liquefied gas and then send it back to Rabat via the disused Maghreb Europe gas pipeline connecting Algeria to Morocco via Spain and Andalusia. Algeria suspects Spain is exporting the gas it buys to Morocco.
Relations between the two Maghreb countries are extremely strained due to a conflict over the Western Sahara region. While Algiers supports the independence of the coastal region, Rabat will not let go of its own plan for autonomy, proposing that the Sahrawi could decide on matters independently, but the King of Morocco would decide on issues related to foreign affairs, defense and the legal system. Algeria has suspended gas sales to Morocco due to this ongoing conflict.
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The Spanish government unexpectedly announced in March that it would adopt Rabat’s plans for Western Sahara after decades of independence. Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said Morocco’s plans were serious, viable and capable of resolving a long-running dispute.
Spain backed the independence of Western Sahara at the time, and bypassed Morocco, secretly providing medical care to Brahim Ghali, a leader of the Polisario Front, a movement for independence. Once this was revealed, Morocco retaliated by stopping the so-called strait crossing operation, which made it easier for millions of African citizens to travel between Europe and Morocco. Rabat then stopped border controls in Ceuta and more than 10,000 illegal immigrants broke into the Spanish autonomous city. Since taking these migrants into custody, Spain has faced extreme difficulty repatriating them.
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The Spanish government was then forced to settle its relations with Morocco due to constant migratory pressure, so it reluctantly took the opposite tact on the Western Sahara region, which has set it now on a collision course with Algeria.
The closure of the Algerian gas pipeline in the current situation, with the whole of Europe struggling to overcome its dependence on Russian gas, would be an extremely serious blow, especially to Spain, of which Algeria is already the main supplier of gas.
The Spanish government claims that it does not resell the energy it buys from them to Morocco. Rabat is said to have asked them for help to guarantee its energy security, but it is sourcing liquefied natural gas from the international market and Spain is only helping to regasify and transport it.