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EU warns Algeria over Spain row

The European Union on Friday warned Algeria against any “discriminatory treatment” of Spain after it suspended a cooperation pact in a row over disputed Western Sahara.

Algeria’s diplomatic mission to the EU reacted with anger, insisting that the move would have no effect on its association agreement with the EU as a whole, and denied that financial transactions would be halted.

“The decision taken by Algeria to suspend the treaty of friendship and good neighbourly relations signed with Spain in 2002 is of utmost concern,” the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.

“We are assessing the implications of the Algerian actions, including the instruction given to the financial institutions to stop transactions between the two countries.”

Borrell warned that the move “would lead to a discriminatory treatment of an EU member state” and said Brussels was reaching out to Algeria to clarify the situation.

“We trust that, in the name of our strong and long-term partnership, a swift solution will be found to fully re-establish commercial and investment relations,” the statement said.

“The EU is ready to stand up against any type of coercive measures applied against an EU member state. However, the EU continues to favour dialogue first to solve controversies.”

Algeria’s diplomatic mission said in a statement that “the alleged measure by the 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.

“Furthermore, and with regard to gas deliveries to Spain, Algeria has already made known by the most authoritative voice, that of the President of the Republic, that it will continue to honour all of its commitments made in this context.”

Algeria on Wednesday suspended its 2002 friendship treaty with Spain and its banking association then urged members to restrict business ties.

The decisions came after Madrid in March reversed its decades-long stance of neutrality on the Western Sahara conflict, saying it would back Morocco’s autonomy plan for the disputed region as it sought to end a lingering diplomatic spat.

Spain’s move, widely seen as a victory for Morocco, infuriated its regional rival Algeria, which has long backed the Polisario Front, Western Sahara’s independence movement, and which also supplies vast quantities of natural gas to Spain.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares vowed that Spain would “defends its interests”.

“It is obvious that the EU has the tools and instruments to deal with any situation,” he said.

But he insisted that Madrid and Brussels “want dialogue and we are not going to do anything that can be used for escalation”.