Writing on the Sand

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Algeria recalled its ambassador from Spain over the weekend in protest of Madrid’s decision to support a Moroccan autonomy plan for the disputed territory of Western Sahara, Agence France-Presse reported.

On Friday, the Spanish government declared “a new stage” in its strained relations with Morocco and announced it backed a 2007 Moroccan proposal to offer Western Sahara autonomy under its sovereignty. Spanish officials described the plan as the “most serious, realistic and credible basis” to end the long-running conflict.

After Spain withdrew from the region in 1975, Morocco annexed Western Sahara and considered it as part of its territory. And since then, the Moroccan government has been engaged in a conflict with the Algerian-backed Polisario Front fighting for independence, Africanews noted.

Before Friday’s announcement, Spain had kept a neutral stance toward the conflict and supported a United Nations-backed referendum to resolve the dispute.

Algeria and the Polisario Front criticized Spain’s “abrupt about-turn,” saying the Spanish government was bowing to pressure and “blackmail” from Morocco.

Spain’s relations with Morocco have nosedived since last year when Madrid secretly allowed Polisario Front commander Brahim Ghali to seek medical care at a Spanish hospital.

Morocco responded by withdrawing its ambassador in Spain and allowing thousands of migrants to storm the border around the Spanish North African enclave of Ceuta, the latter causing a humanitarian crisis.

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