The Spanish government will “firmly defend” its national interests following Algeria’s decision to suspend a 20-year-old friendship and cooperation treaty and ban all non-gas trade with Spain, it said on Thursday. the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Commercial relations are severed
Jose Manuel Albares told reporters that Spain was also monitoring gas flows from Algeria, which account for almost half of Spain’s gas imports, and said they were not affected by the diplomatic dispute over Madrid’s position in the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
Algeria’s banking association said on Wednesday that payments to and from Spain were stopping due to the suspension of the treaty, which Algerian sources say affects all trade except supplies of gas.
“We are analyzing the scope and the national and European consequences of this measure in a calm and constructive way, but also with firmness to defend Spain and the interests of Spaniards and Spanish companies,” Albares told reporters.
Spanish exports to Algeria include iron and steel, machinery, paper products, fuels and plastics, while services exports include construction, banking and insurance.
Spanish energy companies Naturgy, Repsol and Cepsa have contracts with Algeria’s state-owned gas company Sonatrach.
Spain’s energy minister, Teresa Ribera, expressed confidence that Sonatrach would respect its commercial contracts, but acknowledged that the dispute between the two nations comes at a delicate moment, the prices of the supply contracts of ten years being currently reviewed by the companies concerned.
Gas supplies from North Africa to Europe have taken on increasing importance this year in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Tense relations between Algeria and Morocco regarding Western Sahara
Algeria grew angry when Spain said in March it backed a Moroccan plan to offer autonomy to Western Sahara. Algeria supports the Polisario Front movement, which is seeking full independence for this territory, which Morocco considers its own and largely controls.
Algeria severed diplomatic ties with Morocco last year after the Western Sahara conflict flared up again in 2020, nearly three decades after a ceasefire took effect. Also last year, Algeria decided not to extend a deal to export gas through a pipeline through Morocco to Spain, which accounted for almost all of Morocco’s gas supply. It supplies Spain by a direct underwater gas pipeline and by ship.
Its treaty with Spain also committed both sides to cooperate in controlling migration flows, so its suspension could become a potential problem for Spain, the European Union and even NATO.
Spain, as host of an upcoming NATO summit, will push for the inclusion of ‘hybrid threats’ such as irregular migration, especially on the southern flank, in the new political roadmap of the military alliance, Albares told Reuters on Wednesday.
Spain’s move towards Morocco’s position on Western Sahara ended a dispute between Madrid and Rabat last year, which involved both disputed territory and mass immigration.