Algeria has recalled its ambassador from neighboring Morocco amid mounting tensions and a diplomatic row between the two countries over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
Media reported on Sunday that Algeria recalled its envoy to protest against comments made last week by Omar Hilale, Morocco’s envoy to the United Nations, at a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement.
On Thursday, Hilale expressed support for the independence of Algeria’s northeastern region, Kabylia, a stronghold of the country’s Amazigh (Berber) minority.
Hilale demanded the right to “self-determination” of the Algerian people of Kabylia, better known as the Berber ethnic group widespread in the Atlas Mountains and other areas.
Speaking from the UN headquarters in New York, Hilale said Algeria’s support for “self-determination” in the Western Sahara region was hypocritical given that she opposes giving the same rights of the Kabyle people in the country.
Western Sahara is claimed by Morocco as well as by the Polisario Front supported by Algeria.
Hilale’s comments drew angry reactions from Algerian politicians and social media activists.
In an official response on Friday, Algeria strongly condemned what it called a “serious deviation” committed by the Moroccan envoy to the UN.
Algeria asked Morocco to “clarify” its position after “inadmissible comments from its ambassador in New York”.
“The Moroccan diplomatic representation in New York (…) is officially dedicated to demonstrating the involvement of the Kingdom of Morocco in an anti-Algerian campaign through public and explicit support for the presumed right to self-determination of the Kabyle people”, indicates the released press release. by the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The dispute between Morocco and the independence movement of the Polisario Front supported by Algeria in the region of Western Sahara has been a bone of contention for decades between the two North African neighbors.
Morocco’s support for the Self-Determination of Kabylia (MAK), which seeks an autonomous government for Kabylia in Algeria, is another point of contention between the two.
The Berber minority ethnic group in Algeria claims that the government of Algiers is making efforts to assimilate the minority group to the Berber and Arab Arabized majority.
The aim of the MAK leadership is to establish the regional self-determination of the Kabyles in Algeria, as “the first step towards a Kabyle and Berber state”.
The MAK has been designated a “terrorist organization” by the government of Algiers.