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France Ends Visa Dispute With Algeria Amid ‘New Page’ With Morocco

European country announced on Sunday the end of its lingering visa spat with Algeria.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin traveled last week to Algeria, from where he announced yesterday a return to a “normal consular relationship” with the North African country.

The French official also praised the “extremely strong” ties between Paris and Algiers.

Darmanin’s announcement came a few days after French Foreign Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna’s visit to Morocco.

As she ended her stay in the North African kingdom, Colonna made a similar announcement, emphasizing the return of “normal consular” ties with Morocco.

France's vague support for Morocco's Sahara Stance

Colonna's visit and her announcement of “a new page” in the Morocco-France relations came more than a year after France’s decision to halve the number of visas granted to Moroccans and Algerians by 50% each.

The move was met with disapproval and incomprehension in Rabat and Algiers, souring France's long-standing “strategic” relations with both North African countries.  

France’s decision to end the visa crisis with Algeria a few days following a similar move towards Morocco appears to reflect the European country’s concerns about a potential rift due to the French position on Western Sahara.

During her visit to Morocco, the French foreign minister appeared to suggest that France favors Morocco's Autonomy Plan, vaguely emphasizing that her country’s position on Western Sahara is “constant and unchanged.”

After reiterating support for the UN-led political process, Colonna recalled that her country maintains the same position with regard to Morocco’s Autonomy Plan.

In an interview following her meeting with Nasser Bourita, the chief of Moroccan diplomacy, the French minister made sure to stress that France “did not wait for the decision of such and such a country to support” the Moroccan autonomy initiative for Western Sahara.

“Our position is clear and known. From the start, it has been a position clearly favorable to Morocco which we repeat everywhere,” Colonna said, stressing that Rabat can always count on France’s support.

Significance for French-Algerian Reconciliation

Such comments that appear to embrace the Moroccan position on the Sahara dispute come at a time when the French government is also attempting to “reconcile” with Algeria’s regime.

As Algeria is the main sponsor of the Polisario Front, the separatist group challenging Morocco's sovereignty over the Western Sahara region, France's perceived support for the Moroccan position could derail Paris's efforts to appease the Algerian regime.

Having already endured a series of diplomatic setbacks as Morocco's Autonomy Plan emerges as the best route to a lasting solution to the Sahara dispute, Algeria could see in Colonna’s recent comments another “unacceptable” and “regrettable” development on the Sahara question.

When Spain announced its support of Morocco's Western Sahara stance in March of this year, a frustrated and diplomatically cornered Algerian regime responded by ending its 20-year Friendship Treaty with Spain and reconsidering the terms of its energy trade with the European country.

With Colonna's vague -- but symbolically significant -- pro-Morocco comments on the Sahara dispute, it remains to be what response Algeria will give to a French regime obsessed with appeasing Algiers to reckon with its troubled colonial past. 

Source: Morocco World News

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