While the crisis between Morocco and Spain escalates following the presence of Ibrahim Ghali, leader of the “Polisario” front, which calls for the independence of the Sahara region from Morocco, in Madrid, informed sources revealed a hidden side of the escalating dispute between the two countries.
Ghali was transferred to a hospital in Spain for treatment last month. This angered Morocco, which considers Western Sahara as part of its territory and says that Ghali uses travel documents provided by Algeria under a pseudonym.
According to the sources, the dispute between the two countries is, in an important part, related to negotiations on the renewal of the “Arab Maghreb-European Gas” agreement, as the agreement that brings Algeria, Rabat and Madrid together, ends at the end of 2021, and it is an agreement that guarantees the arrival of Algerian gas to Spain and Portugal through Morocco.
“Maghreb-Europe” gas pipeline
The “Arab Maghreb-Europe” gas pipeline or the “Purdue Doran Farrell” line, started in stages.
Spain and Algeria agreed in 1992 to build the pipeline, after Sonatrach (Algeria) and Ina Gas (Spain) signed a long-term supply agreement.
After that, Morocco joined the agreement, whereby the Moroccan part of the pipeline was launched, with construction, operation and use of the pipeline.
In the same year, the pipeline project “Arab Maghreb-Europe Ltd.” was established in 1994, which was joined by Portuguese “Trans Gas”.
Since 1997, Rabat has begun to collect cash fees and taxes estimated at 12% (it was in excess of one billion dirhams annually) of the value of gas transported through the Maghreb-European gas pipeline.
In 2003, in addition to the gas pipeline, a Spanish company obtained a contract to manage and operate the “Tahdart” station to generate power from Algerian gas, which was officially inaugurated by Moroccan King Mohammed VI and former Spanish King Juan Carlos in 2005. Under this contract, the Spanish company obtained the right to benefit for a period of time. 20 years.
The atmosphere of 2011 pushed Morocco and Algeria to rapprochement, and this was reflected in the energy sector, as the two countries signed an agreement to supply the first to the second with 640 million cubic meters of natural gas annually for a period of ten years.
The agreement, which was hosted by the Algerian capital, was signed between the “Sonatrach” company (affiliated with the state) and the National Electricity Office (owned by the state), and expires in 2021.
The crisis between Morocco and Spain … and Algeria accused of aligning with Madrid
It seems that the recent dispute between Rabat and Madrid revealed an Algerian alignment behind Spain. The Algerian statements soon revealed its backgrounds, as it became clear that Algeria is concerned with the energy aspect of the dispute between its partners in the gas pipeline.
On Thursday, May 20, the Algerian government announced the inauguration of the gas pipeline linking Algeria and Spain via the Ain Temouchent station.
The project, which extends for a length of 197 km and at a cost of approximately 32 billion Algerian dinars, aims to strengthen the capacity of exporting gas through the “Med Gas” pipeline linking the two countries.
In 2019, Spain and Algeria signed an agreement that would enable Madrid to obtain 10 billion cubic meters of gas annually through the Med Gas pipeline.
However, the Spanish press confirmed that “the gas pipeline, which passes through Morocco, remains necessary to ensure safe supplies for Spain.”
In the same direction, Algeria and Madrid embarked on establishing a sea route for passengers and goods between the port of Melilla (occupied Morocco) and the Algerian port of Ghazaouet in the Algerian state of Tlemcen.
The two countries are also considering opening the occupied city to the citizens of Algeria without a visa.
Sources stressed that “a Med gas pipeline or a sea line in the current context will be costly to both Spain and Algeria, both financially and temporally, which gives preference to the Moroccan position in this part of the energy-related dispute.”
In addition, the Algerian Maghreb-European gas pipeline cuts 1,400 km from Hassi Rmel wells in Algeria, and crosses Morocco at a distance of about 500 km from Beni Mathar in the east and near Taza and Ousan before it reaches Tangiers in the north, reaching Spain and Portugal.
Morocco’s revenues from the Algerian natural gas pipeline declined, and last year reached about 55%, and was estimated at 454 million dirhams.
These revenues amounted to about 1.5 billion dirhams in 2018, and decreased in 2019 to one billion dirhams, to reach about 500 million dirhams last year.
Moroccan angered by the Spanish Foreign Minister
What confirms the escalation of the crisis between the two sides, Karima Benyich, Morocco’s ambassador to Spain, responded Thursday May 27, 2021, to media statements made by Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya.
A diplomatic source in Rabat told Reuters that the matter concerns an interview in the newspaper “La Rizan”, last week.
Benayish said that the minister’s statements “undermine the territorial integrity of the Kingdom,” stressing that “Morocco has taken note of this and will act accordingly.”
And Morocco recalled its ambassador, “Beniish”, from Madrid, last week; To consult due to Spain’s decision to host Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front, for treatment without informing Rabat.
Beniish said that the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs recently made statements to the press and to Parliament, in which she “continued to present false facts and issue inappropriate comments.”
On the other hand, “Laia” was quoted as saying in an interview, that the arrival of Gali to Spain was not a secret; Rather, it was a matter that was “kept discreet”, and she added that this decision was up to Spain to take.
Morocco threatens Spain to cut ties if Ghali leaves, as he enters it, without trial.
However, the Spanish radio network Cadena Ser, said Tuesday, May 25, 2021, that Ibrahim Ghali will appear before the Spanish Supreme Court on the first of June.
Meanwhile, Moroccan media reported that cases have been brought against Ghali accusing him of rape, murder and war crimes.
Rabat had apparently loosened its control on the border with the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. This led to the crossing of thousands of migrants, in a move seen as a response to Spain’s hosting of Gali.
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