Algeria suspended a 20-year-old friendship treaty with Spain that committed the two sides to cooperation in controlling migration flows, and also banned imports from Spain, escalating a row over Madrid's stance on Western Sahara.
“Algeria has decided to immediately suspend the treaty of friendship, good neighbourliness and cooperation” signed with Madrid in 2002, the president’s office said in a statement.
Spain’s government said it regretted Algeria’s decision and reaffirmed its commitment to the friendship treaty. The Spanish foreign ministry statement said that “The Spanish government regards Algeria as a friendly neighbour country and restates its complete readiness to keep and develop the special cooperation relationship between our two countries, to the benefit of the people of both.”
Algeria recalled its ambassador to Spain in March after the government in Madrid came out in support of Morocco’s pretensions to keep Western Sahara under its rule. Algeria supports the territory’s independence movement, Polisario, from rival Morocco.
Spain was the former colonial power in Western Sahara until it was annexed by Morocco in 1975. Since then, neighbours, Algeria and Morocco have been at odds over the fate of the Western Sahara, at one point fighting a desert war.
Western Sahara has been on the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories, a stance also taken by the African Union, the International Court of Justice as well as the European Union.
Algeria is a key gas supplier to Spain and is expected to review prices for any new gas contract with Spanish firms. The current gas contract with Spain is long-term, with prices well under the current market level.
Spanish Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel Albares, reiterated that the Algerian government is a reliable partner and has given Spain guarantees at the highest level regarding its gas supply.
But the situation seems to be worsening. An opinion article published by Algeria Press Service on Tuesday blamed the Spanish Foreign Minister for the "unprecedented crisis" between Madrid and Algiers.
The article called Albares a "pyromaniac" as well as an "unworthy," "amateur," and "pseudo-diplomat." It also accused him of manipulating EU officials against Algeria by saying Russia was behind the bilateral crisis.
The EU released a statement saying that Algeria's actions "appear to be in violation of the EU-Algeria Association Agreement" and that the EU is "ready to stand up against any type of coercive measures."
Several Spanish companies say they are still unable to do business with Algeria. Meanwhile, the Spanish government says it is investigating the extent to which Algeria's actions are interfering with trade.