Spain’s decision to supply gas to Morocco deals a double blow to Algeria |
Double blow to Algeria
Moroccan observers told The Arab Weekly that Spain’s decision deals a double blow to Algeria, which had hoped to isolate Morocco and prevent the kingdom from reaping the benefits of gas flowing through the Maghreb-Europe pipeline.
Observers say the Spanish move not only compounds an Algerian failure to confuse relations between Madrid and Rabat, but could also prompt Morocco to remove Algeria from its list of gas suppliers for the foreseeable future.
Operating the pipeline in the opposite direction, from Spain to Morocco, will automatically prevent any resumption of operation from Algeria to Spain via Morocco, the observers added.
They also said that for now, what confuses Algeria the most is that the Spanish decision is supported by Europe and that any Algerian objection could damage Europe’s confidence in the country in as a gas supplier.
“The Spanish government‘s decision to receive gas ships loaded with liquefied gas from international markets and pump them to Morocco is a victory for the kingdom’s economic diplomacy,” said international relations researcher Nabil al-Andalusi.
“Morocco is defending its interests at a time when Algeria is trying to threaten the kingdom’s energy security,” he added, in a statement to The Arab Weekly.
“The Spanish decision is a painful blow to the Algerian regime and will be a great embarrassment to Algeria diplomatically and economically,” Andalusi noted.
Morocco’s energy ministry on Thursday declined to reveal details of the deal with Spain.
Moroccan news site Le360 said it followed weeks of talks between Rabat and Madrid.
The announcement came three months after Algeria said it would not renew an expiring 25-year deal to use the pipeline through which it had transported gas to Spain via Morocco.
Algeria, Africa’s largest gas exporter, had used GME since 1996 to export some 10 billion cubic meters of gas a year to Spain and beyond to Portugal.
In return, Morocco had received around one billion cubic meters of gas per year in the form of transit fees, covering around 97% of its needs.
The end of the contract directly affected Rabat’s energy supplies at a time when global gas prices soared.
The deal ended as tensions rose between North African neighbors after Morocco renewed diplomatic ties with Israel and Washington recognized the kingdom’s sovereignty over disputed Western Sahara.
Morocco considers Western Sahara its own sovereign territory while Algeria has long backed the separatist Polisario Front.
Algiers cut all diplomatic relations with Rabat in August.
Madrid’s decision to help Morocco was a move aimed at reducing tensions between the two nations that began in April when Spain allowed the Polisario Front leader to be treated in a Spanish hospital when he was very sick with COVID.
This decision sparked a tense confrontation with Morocco. A month later, some 10,000 migrants stormed into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta as Moroccan border forces looked away in what was widely seen as a punitive measure by Rabat.
At the end of November, Rabat signed a ten-year contract with Sound Energy to supply gas from a concession held by the British firm in eastern Morocco.
Spain will continue to receive its gas from Algeria, its main supplier, via the Medgaz gas pipeline which directly connects the two countries under the Mediterranean.
Algiers has pledged to increase the capacity of the pipeline to compensate for the closure of the GME.