Tensions are at their highest between the two brotherly and neighbouring countries, Morocco and Algeria, especially over the Western Sahara. Faced with this unfortunate situation, China, as a partner, could put its weight behind facilitating constructive interaction between the two countries.
As a partner of both Morocco and Algeria, China could try to find an agreement between the two neighbouring countries, which have been staring at each other for some time because of the conflict over Western Sahara. At least that is what Michaël Tanchum, associate professor at the University of Navarra and Nerea Álvarez-Aríztegui, a student at the same university, think.
« China is at a crossroads as it expands its economic presence in the Maghreb. Increasing tensions between Algeria and Morocco could threaten Chinese economic and geopolitical interests in the region. But Beijing may have the power to bridge the gap and reorient the western Mediterranean towards its New Silk Road initiative, » they argue in an opinion piece published by East Asia Forum.
They point out that relations between Algeria and Morocco are far from perfect. This has been the case since the Polisario Front ended the 29-year-old ceasefire with Rabat in November 2020, when there were new exchanges of fire between the two sides. Also since the US recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over the Sahara, on 10 December 2020.
Algeria plans to intensify its support for the Polisario Front and increase its own military presence on the Moroccan border. According to both analysts, this could threaten Chinese interests in the Maghreb and undermine its plans to achieve transcontinental connectivity via the western Mediterranean. China is a partner with an interest in phosphates. Morocco has more than 70% of the world’s rock phosphate reserves, while Algeria has the world’s fourth largest stockpile, say Michaël Tanchum and Nerea Álvarez-Aríztegui.
« Rabat can offer Algiers opportunities to participate in the development of Morocco’s trade connectivity. This would fit in well with Beijing’s efforts to integrate the Western Mediterranean into the New Silk Road. For its part, Algeria should join the negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario to secure future arrangements for the Sahrawis, » the authors argue, calling on Beijing, which is in a strategically advantageous position between the two parties, to make transitional proposals that would benefit them.
« The time has come for China to facilitate a constructive interaction between Rabat and Algiers. Its diplomatic efforts could determine whether the trajectory of the Western Maghreb will be towards cooperation or conflict, » they conclude.