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Algeria banking group ends restrictions on operations with Spain

A key Algerian banking association has ended restrictions on commercial transactions with Spain in place since Algiers suspended a cooperation treaty last month, according to a document published by local media.

The measures, namely a “freeze on foreign trade operations of goods and services from and to Spain, are no longer required” starting from Thursday, the ABEF banking association said in a note to the heads of banks and financial establishments.

No official public announcement has yet been made.

The move followed an evaluation of the restrictions on commercial transactions with Spain and consultations “with relevant foreign trade parties”, the ABEF said in the note, without providing further explanation.

On June 8, Algeria suspended a cooperation pact with Spain, prompting a terse rebuke from Brussels which warned there would be consequences for any “discriminatory treatment” of an EU member state.

Hours later, the ABEF had urged its members to restrict business ties with Spain.

“Following the suspension of the treaty of friendship, good neighbourliness and cooperation with Spain, you are requested to freeze all automatic bank payments, whether incoming or outgoing, for goods and services with Spain from Thursday, June 9,” it said at the time.

But Algeria’s diplomatic mission to the European Union had branded the idea of a suspension a Spanish fabrication.

“The alleged measure by the (Algerian) government to stop ongoing transactions with a European partner… only exists in the minds of those who claim it and of those who hastened to stigmatise it,” it said.

Spain’s top diplomat later in the month confirmed there had been a de facto halt to trade ties.

“Despite Algerian statements saying these were malicious fantasies dreamt up by Spain, there is indeed a blocking of operations,” Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said in late June.

Spain in March had publicly recognised Morocco’s autonomy plan for the disputed territory of Western Sahara to end a diplomatic spat with the kingdom, Algeria’s arch-rival.

Algiers, which backs the territory’s Polisario Front independence movement, said in June that Madrid’s move had been “in violation of (Spain’s) legal, moral and political obligations” towards the former Spanish colony, and suspended the 20-year-old cooperation treaty.

Despite the tetchy exchanges, Algeria had confirmed however that it would continue to honour its gas-supply contract with Spain.

Last year, Spanish exports to Algeria totalled 1.8 billion euros ($1.95 billion) while imports amounted to 4.7 billion euros, almost all of which was gas supplies.