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Algeria suspends Spain co-operation over Western Sahara dispute

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Algeria said yesterday it was suspending a decades-old co-operation treaty with Spain, after Madrid backed the position of the North African country’s arch-rival Morocco on the disputed Western Sahara.

“Algeria has decided to immediately suspend the treaty of friendship, good neighbourliness and co-operation,” the Algerian presidency said in a statement.

Madrid and Algiers had signed the deal in 2002 to promote dialogue and cooperation on political, economic, financial, education and defence issues.

A Spanish diplomatic source told AFP that the government of Pedro Sanchez “regrets the Algerian decision”.

Algeria’s move came in retaliation after Spain in March publicly recognised Morocco’s autonomy plan for the disputed territory, helping end a year-long diplomatic spat between the two kingdoms.

But Algeria said yesterday that Spain’s move had been “in violation of its legal, moral and political obligations” towards the territory, a former Spanish colony.

That reflects the complex challenge Madrid faces in balancing its ties with both states, bitter rivals.

Algeria, which backs the Polisario movement seeking independence in the Western Sahara, had in August last year broke off diplomatic ties with Rabat over “hostile acts”.

Morocco controls 80 percent of the Western Sahara.

The rest is held by the Polisario, which fought a 15-year war with Morocco after Spanish forces withdrew in 1975 and demands a referendum on independence.

Morocco has offered limited autonomy but insists the phosphate and fisheries-rich enclave must remain under its sovereignty.

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