Algeria, Morocco agree to tighten ties

Dalila Henache
Algeria and Morocco agree Tuesday in to boost bilateral cooperation in various fields and to give a fresh impetus to the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU).
The agreement « will allow three ministers to visit the two countries next March to discuss the necessary ways to give new dynamism for bilateral relations in sensitive fields, especially energy and agriculture », Medelci said in a press statement.
Medelci said that efforts were being made by Algeria and Morocco to foster a positive atmosphere that would enhance economic and social co-operation between the two countries. The Algerian official also said that the first visit would be by energy sector officials, to be followed by visits by officials in the agriculture, education, youth and sports sectors.
Algeria was working with its « Moroccan friends and brothers » to create a suitable atmosphere in the Maghreb region, Medelci said. However, the minister did not address the issue of the countries’ shared border, which has remained closed since 1994.
For his part, Moroccan Foreign Affairs Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri said that Rabat was prepared to receive members of the Algerian government as a start, « especially as there is a will from the two sides to exchange visits on the level of two governments soon ».
Speaking to Morocco’s Channel One on February 15th, the Moroccan minister expressed his sorrow for the continued closure of borders between Algeria and Morocco; something that « hinders Maghreb integration ». He added that opening the borders between Morocco and Algeria has become an inevitable necessity, calling on Algeria « to forget the past for the best interests of the two peoples, especially after the change of leadership in both countries ».
« We all pay a price every day for not creating the Arab Maghreb Union, » Fassi Fihri said.
Last autumn, Rabat received Algerian Secretary of State for National Community Abroad Halim Ben Attallah. Meanwhile, the Moroccan foreign minister visited Algeria last year to represent the kingdom at the funeral of Algeria’s former ambassador to Morocco.
« We are looking for establishing Maghreb citizenship in the framework of a wider Maghreb space, » he added.
« Political differences between the two countries won’t have an effect, » said Slim Othmani, Vice-President of the Club for Action and Reflection on Enterprise (CARE). « The continued closure of borders can be dealt with. »
Addressing an economic conference in January, Othmani pointed to the experiences of China with regards to its co-operation with India to facilitate the movement of goods.
« Why don’t Algeria and Morocco resort to similar co-operation? » Othmani wondered. « Western areas of Algeria and eastern areas of Morocco suffer from shortage of development. Therefore, increased trade between the two countries could help develop these areas. »
Morocco is also Algeria’s largest trade partner in Africa. The official volume of trade between the two countries exceeds $570 million, on top of informal trade which some estimate at $2 billion. Half a million Algerians visited Morocco in 2007, while Algeria granted 250 commercial registers for Moroccans living on its soil. About 45,000 Moroccans currently live in Algeria.
Echorouk, 26/1/2012