Zapatero in Algeria for trade talks

14th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

14 July 2004, ALGIERS — Spanish Prime Minister Jose-Luis Rodriguez Zapatero arrived Wednesday in Algeria for talks on trade and a former Spanish colony.

14 July 2004

ALGIERS — Spanish Prime Minister Jose-Luis Rodriguez Zapatero arrived Wednesday in Algeria for talks on trade and a former Spanish colony.

Zapatero was greeted at Algiers airport by the north African country's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, with whom he was to have talks during a trip scheduled to last a few hours.

The left-wing Spanish leader, elected in March, was accompanied by Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos and Industry, Trade and Tourism Minister Jose Montilla.

With the arrival an hour earlier of a large delegation of Spanish business leaders, particularly in the building industry and energy sectors, one aim of the trip was to boost economic ties on the basis of a friendship and cooperation treaty signed by the two Mediterranean countries in 2002.

However, government sources in Madrid indicated that the agenda would also include talks on the former Spanish colony, the Western Sahara, annexed and occupied by Morocco after the settlers pulled out in 1975.

Algeria supports an independence movement in the territory on its western borders and is home to thousands of Sahrawi refugees.

Moratinos visited Algiers in May, when the foreign minister and his hosts talked about improving cooperation to fight terrorism, relations between north Africa and Europe, and the growing presence of Spanish firms in Algeria.

Spain is among Algeria's main trading partners. Almost 60 percent of Spain's natural gas needs are met by Algerian supplies pumped down the Maghreb-Europe Pipeline (GME) which passes through Morocco and began service in 1996.

Total trade between the two countries last year was worth EUR three billion or USD 3.7 billion and plans are in hand to build another pipeline, directly linking Beni Saf in Algeria with Almeria in Spain.

The Medgaz consortium is due to begin work on the pipeline, which will have a gas capacity of four billion cubic metres a year, at the end of 2004. It is expected to go start in 2007.

Another project of strategic importance, according to Algerian Energy Minister Chakib Khelil, is to link the Spanish and Algerian national grids with a submarine cable, regarded as a vital part of a future Euro-Mediterranean electrical power network.

Spain backs the right of Sahrawis to a referendum, while France has opted for a direct political settlement between Algeria and Morocco, but Paris and Madrid have shown signs of closing ranks.

Moratinos on Sunday said that Spain and France should jointly draw up a strategy so that "the message received in Algiers, Rabat and Tunis is the same, whether it comes from Madrid or Paris."
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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