MADRID (AP) — Spain’s economy minister on Monday linked Algeria’s decision to break a decades-old friendship treaty with Spain that froze economic ties with what she described as the growing alignment of the North African country with Russia.
In an interview with Catalunya Radio, Nadia Calviño said that during recent meetings of the International Monetary Fund she chaired, she had noticed “that Algeria was increasingly aligned with Russia, and as such , it (the decision) did not surprise me”.
Algeria suspended the two-decade-old friendship treaty with Spain last Wednesday.
The move was seen as retaliation after Madrid came out in favor of Morocco’s attempts to keep Western Sahara under its control. Algeria supports the territory’s independence movement.
On Friday, the EU warned that it was ready to take action to defend the interests of its members.
Algeria then appeared to backtrack when its mission to the European Union issued a statement saying the country had never suspended the treaty.
Algeria, however, continues to block trade and the Algerian Foreign Ministry on Saturday called the European response “hasty and baseless”. In a statement in strong terms, he added that it was “a political disagreement of a bilateral nature” between Madrid and Algiers which should not concern the EU.
Calviño welcomed the EU decision, adding that the treaty suspensions would be a drag on the Spanish economy. She said “the most important thing right now is for Algeria to change its position and step back.”
Spanish officials say they hope talks with Algeria will soon resolve the issue.
Spain’s main concern is that the suspension could affect important gas supplies from Algeria, but the Spanish and Algerian governments have said that will not happen. Algeria supplies 23% of Spain’s gas needs.
Spain and the rest of the 27-nation bloc are scrambling to find alternatives to Russian energy imports to protest Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Figures from the Ministry of Industry show that Spain exported 2 billion euros ($2.1 billion) worth of goods to Algeria last year while its imports were valued at nearly 5 billion. euros.
Spain was the colonial power in Western Sahara until its annexation by Morocco in 1975. Since then, Algerian and Moroccan neighbors have been at odds over the region’s fate.
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