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Morocco calls on Algeria to normalise relations

Latest update : 2008-03-21

There is new hope for a settlement of the Morocco-Algeria dispute, which led Algeria to close the border in 1994 after Rabat accused its neighbour of involvement in a Marrakesh shooting. (Report: K.Williams)

 

RABAT - Morocco called on Algeria on Thursday to normalise relations between the North African neighbours and reopen the border closed 14 years ago.

 

Rabat's move came two days after Morocco and Algeria-backed Western Sahara's Polisario independence movement ended a fourth round of talks near New York without narrowing differences on Africa's longest-running territorial dispute. Morocco's government regards thawing ties with Algeria as the key to end the deadlock over the dispute with Polisario.

 

"The Kingdom of Morocco calls with a brotherly friendship and total sincerity for a normalisation of the bilateral relations and the re-opening of the border between the two countries," said the Foreign Ministry in a statement.

 

Algeria closed the border in 1994 after Rabat accused its security forces of involvement in a Marrakesh hotel shooting.

 

Morocco took control of most of Western Sahara in 1975 when colonial power Spain withdrew, prompting a guerrilla war for independence that lasted until 1991 when the United Nations brokered a ceasefire and sent in peacekeepers.

The desert territory of 260,000 on Africa's Atlantic coast holds phosphates, rich fisheries and, potentially, offshore oil.

 

Rabat is trying to persuade Polisario to accept its plan for Western Sahara to be an autonomous part of Morocco.

Polisario proposes a referendum among ethnic Sahrawis that includes an option of independence.

No state recognizes Morocco's rule over Western Sahara but the U.N. Security Council is divided. Some non-aligned states back Polisario but France and the United States support Morocco.

 

Algiers leaders have repeatedly said the border would remain shut until the two governments agreed on a "package of deals" that include a solution to the Western Sahara conflict.

 

"The Kingdom of Morocco reiterates its willingness to open a new page in the relations between the two neighbouring countries taking into account their common past and shared destiny," the Moroccan Ministry said.

 

International, regional and bilateral circumstances are now different from when Algeria closed the border, it said.

 

Morocco has been losing up to $1.0 billion per year in trade and tourism revenue because of the closed border, officials and economists said.

Date created : 2008-03-21

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