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The Western Sahara conflict proves Turkey-Algeria ties




November 20, 2020

The Cold War between Saudi-led Arab states and Ankara is expanding into new territory. This is bad news for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who wanted to contain the tensions.

As Turkey hoped to improve connections through backdoor channels, Saudi Arabia launched a unofficial boycott against Turkish goods, services and all Turkish things. Turkey fears that other Arab countries, other than its only ally Qatar, will be pressured to join.

Still, Qatar has its borders. Despite Erdogan cholera outbreak against Abu Dhabi for normalizing relations with Israel, Doha reacted calmly, expressing respect for the sovereign decisions of Bahrain and the Emirates in accordance with Doha Efforts to end the blockade.

A senior diplomat from the Turkish Foreign Ministry told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “Although we are confident that Erdogan and the Emir of Qatar will remain friends, we note that Doha is escalating to avoid confronting its neighbors. its direct, which means we have to take more risks. ”

One of these risks is growing in the Maghreb region. Turkey ‘s goal to expand its investments in Africa also means strengthening ties with Algeria, Tunisia and Rabat. However, the loss of friends has a domino effect in the Middle East. Turkey’s battle with the Saudi-led coalition has raised several roadblocks, largely unaccepted in the public sphere. In 2018, Jordan’s sudden decision to end the free trade agreement is still bitterly remembered in Ankara.

That said, Turkey is steadfast in its efforts to develop military and trade relations in the Arab world. One of these countries is Algeria. Erdogan had four official trips to Algeria, two as prime minister (2006 and 2013) and two as president (2014 and 2020). The 2006 signing of a friendship and co-operation agreement boosted trade and consolidated bilateral relations. In January 2020, Turkey and Algeria committed to it increase their trading volume to $ 5 billion from $ 3.1 billion. Algeria is currently Turkey’s second largest trading partner in Africa. If all goes according to plan, Algeria could lead Egypt.

A foreign diplomat serving in Algeria told Al-Monitor, “Turkey has over 750 companies here, employing almost 30,000 workers. Fuat Tosyali, a businessman known for his closeness to Erdogan, has run a large steel business here since 2007. “To Tosyali website reads “Algeria’s steel industry leader”.

Algeria is the fourth largest supplier of natural gas in Turkey, and gas deliveries are continuing normally despite rumors of a trade slowdown.

In 2019, Turkey lifted visa requirements for all Algerian citizens under the age of 15 or over the age of 65 Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) is also quite active in Algeria. The agency has assisted in the production Personal protective equipment instead, supports children with autism there and arranges child care for abuse survivors. One of TIKA’s most notable achievements is the 17th century renovation built by the Ottomans Ketchaoua Mosque in northern Algeria known as Casbah. This project is especially important for Ankara, as it was turned into a cathedral during 130 years of French rule. The mosque symbolizes a common achievement by ultranationalists and Islamists. It is quite common to hear Ankara’s lawsuits boast of renewal as if it were part of the Algerian war of independence against France.

However, Algerians are less focused on nostalgia and more on the benefits of this friendship. During the Algerian Foreign Minister Sabri BoukadoumDuring a visit to Ankara in September, the talks focused on boosting investment and trade opportunities, as well as the Libyan crisis and rising tensions in the eastern Mediterranean region. The interests of Ankara and Algeria coincide when it comes to supporting the internationally recognized Libyan National Accord Government, a point where Algeria and Riyadh have left.

Ankara and Algeria share another common interest in their support for the Palestinian cause. However, Erdogan’s Muslim Brotherhood agenda finds little advocacy in Algeria, a country that has suffered Islamic violence since 1992. A clear example of this disinterest is Of the Islamic State failed attempts to recruit fighters from Algeria, unlike other Maghreb countries.

Another thorny issue is Erdogan’s efforts to include Algeria in his harsh criticism of France. While Erdogan called for a boycott of French products, Algeria relies heavily on French exports. Erdogan’s periodic outbursts around French colonialism have traditionally angered Algerians, who prefer to hold their bilateral jobs stand out. Algerian award-winning writerKamel Daoud wrote a derogatory letter Erdogan in 2018 explaining Algerian resentments. Washt ignored in Ankara.

Rabat’s growing co-operation with the Saudi bloc has forced Algeria and Turkey to strengthen their relations. On the other hand, Turkey’s deep ties with Algeria pose risks in its dealings with Rabat, as the region is prone to conflict.

The most inevitable problem is Western Sahara, a controversial region controlled by Rabat. The Polisario Front is an Algerian-backed group fighting for the independence of the Sahrawi people and representing the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic from exile in Tindouf, Algeria. Algeria shares a 26-mile-long border with Western Sahara.

In late October, the UAE announced it would open one consulate in Western Saharan, making it the first Arab nation to be represented in the area. Recognition of Abu Dhabi is a big boost for Morocco and a blow to Algeria.

In 2013 Erdogan said Turkey does not and will never recognize or support Polisario Front. However, this refusal can be reversed as problems are being created in the region. A 29-year ceasefire ended in November, raising the possibility that Polisario Front could go to war with Morocco.

A senior AKP bureaucrat at the security institution told Al-Monitor, “Before the new Algerian President [Abdelmadjid Tebboune], we had good relations with Rabat because they were distant with Saudi Arabia. However, Tebboune tried to repair the bridges with Riyadh. “This was a risk that Rabat could not take.”

The recent hardships Turkish businesses are experiencing in Morocco are seen as a sign that Saudi Arabia boycott calls have been effective.

“Now we may have to make a choice,” the bureaucrat added, “because the military structure in Algeria is strong and for Algeria support for the Polisario Front is essential, especially if we want to sell them weapons and drones.” However, this election is not without cost to Ankara. Western Sahara Resource Watch refers to Turkey as “the largest financier of the occupation of Western Sahara”.

A retired Algerian general told Al-Monitor, “Algeria is a patient and hospitable country. In the 1960s even Black American Panthers sought refuge here. But we are carefully monitoring Turkey’s investments in Laayoune [a major town in Western Sahara] and the rest of the occupied territories ”.

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