Algeria-Morocco Border Set to Open Before May

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According to Algerian Newspapers, preparations for reopening the border were being made even before Saadeddine Othamni, the Moroccan minister of foreign affairs, visited Algeria last week. (Photo: AFP - Farouk Batiche)

By: Mourad Traboulsi

Published Sunday, January 29, 2012

Algerians and Moroccans may soon be able to cross the border between the two countries if campaigns by Islamist parties on both sides calling for stronger ties between the North African countries bear fruit. The new land crossing points scheduled to resume operation by next May are likely to bring tourists and much-needed revenue to Morocco.

Algiers – This spring, the border between Morocco and Algeria will be reopened. When the border was closed in 1994 in the wake of a visa row between the two states, the usual influx of Algerian tourists was cut off, denying Morocco an estimated total of nearly US$2 billion in revenue over the course of one year.

Al-Akhbar has learned that the decision to reopen the border will likely be implemented in the coming weeks.

According to Algerian newspapers, preparations for reopening the border were being made even before Saadeddine Othamni, the Moroccan minister of foreign affairs, visited Algeria last week. While the minister assigned to Maghreb and African affairs, Abdelkader Messahel, claimed that the borders were not discussed during Othamni’s visit, reports in Morocco suggested there was a closed meeting between Othamni and Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika last Tuesday. In the meeting, it is believed that the two men discussed the border and issues concerning Western Sahara, though no statements were released about the result of this meeting.

Joint panels have been working for months to normalize relations between the two neighboring countries and to boost economic cooperation. The two capitals have alternately hosted meetings for experts and officials to discuss the general framework of the expected integration in such fields as the economy, cultural affairs, and sports.

The Movement of Society for Peace, an Algerian Islamist party close to President Bouteflika, made opening the border a centerpiece of their last political campaign. Its leader, Bouguerra Soltani, promised to open the borders “as soon as the Islamists come to power.”

Soltani had already discussed this issue in Rabat weeks ago with officials from the Justice and Development Party (PJD), which heads Morocco’s current government.

Previously, most of the Moroccan and Algerian political parties abided by official decisions made by their respective leaderships. However, as the Arab Spring transformations swept across the region, there was more room for political parties to stake out a position on the subject.

Hence, while campaigning, the Moroccan PJD placed improving relations with Algeria high on its list of priorities, and the Algerian Movement of Society for Peace followed suit. Such steps were helped by the fact that both parties belong to the regional network of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Perhaps it was “Islamist pressure” that made the Algerian government accelerate its plans to resolve the problem of the border before the upcoming parliamentary elections in May. These elections are expected to lead to an Islamist majority or an Islamist lead opposition in the parliament for the first time in the modern history of Algeria.

The borders between the two largest countries in the Arab Maghreb Union were closed in 1994 when Moroccan authorities decided to impose visa restrictions on Algerians wishing to visit Morocco. This move was seen by many as a response to a bombing that was carried out in Marrakesh, which Rabat blamed on Algerian intelligence.

In response, then Algerian President, Liamine Zeroual ordered the closure of land borders indefinitely.

Ten years later, King Mohammad VI dropped the visa requirement for Algerians and declared that his country was seeking to reopen the border. Algeria, for its part, responded by also dropping visa requirement for Moroccans but the land border crossings remained closed.

Algerian authorities conditioned the anticipated re-opening of the border on a set of political and security measures, including stopping the flow of drugs into Algeria, resolving the Western Sahara conflict, and raising the level of border security cooperation in the context of the “war on terror.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

Fool me once shame on you! Fool me twice shame on me! Having said that, Morocco need to wake up and smell the coffee, how can we trust a country that did nothing rather than harming his supposedly neighboring brother? in the 90’s we all remember what happened , and what happened has nothing to do with the Algerian corrupted archaic regime , matter of fact when the Algerians were suffering the cruelty and the butchering of their own HARKI ( loving France )regime , Morocco added more wood to the fire by shedding more heat than light! Either it worked out well for EL MAKHZENE or no , it remain egocentric & when we talk about Algeria , we are taking about a regime that is disconnected completely from its own people….having said that, Morocco need to understand that what ‘s been done in the 90’s it’s only intend was to hurt the Algerian people , and we are not even close of forgetting the past the wound are still deep , as far as the borders , I hope it remain CLOSE . The day we learn how to respect each other and to back each other up as needed ….than! And then only we will talk about prosperity.
One last thing, as Algerians, we care less about the polisario, but do not take us for granted, for the guy who was talking about (Morocco ET le complex des Algeriens) ……two words for you …..GREW UP! …2012 you still bow down to your king. “Try to get my drift now “and catch me if you can.
Please note that my attention is not to create EL FITNA, Algerians and Moroccans are brothers and they will remain in chaaa Allah, but sometimes we need to clean up in our houses before we point the finger to the neighboring house. WITH ALL MY RESPECT TO OUR BROTHERS.

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