search

Blinken visits Russia ally Algeria in shadow of Ukraine invasion and energy concerns

Top US envoy arrives after trip to country’s arch-rival Morocco, which normalized ties with Israel under a deal that sparked renewed tensions over disputed Western Sahara

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves on arrival, March 30, 2022, in Algiers, Algeria. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves on arrival, March 30, 2022, in Algiers, Algeria. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

ALGIERS — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived Wednesday in Algeria, a Moscow ally and major gas producer that has faced calls to boost exports to Europe after prices soared following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Blinken touched down at Boumediene Airport and headed to meet Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra on his first visit as top US diplomat to the North African country.

He had flown in from Algeria’s arch-rival Morocco, which in 2020 normalized ties with Israel under a deal that sparked renewed tensions over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Relations between Washington and Algiers have soured since the deal struck under then US president Donald Trump. At the time, the Trump administration recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the phosphate-rich desert territory, where Algeria has long backed the Polisario independence movement.

Blinken was to spend six hours in Algeria, including a working lunch with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

He may use the trip to urge Algeria to reopen a pipeline that carried Algerian natural gas through Moroccan territory to Spain, to help European countries reduce their energy dependence on Russia.

The GME pipeline closed last year after Algiers declined to renew a 25-year export deal following a spike in tensions.

Algerian media reported this month that the government had rejected a request by Blinken’s deputy Wendy Sherman to reopen the conduit.

State department official Yael Lempert said Blinken was to “discuss regional security and stability, commercial cooperation and advancing human rights and fundamental freedom.”

In Morocco on Tuesday, Blinken reiterated support for a Moroccan autonomy plan for the Western Sahara, which he described as “serious, credible and realistic.”

Blinken earlier this week attended an unprecedented summit in Israel with Arab foreign ministers.

Closing their talks at the Negev Summit, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, left, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, and United Arab Emirates’ Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, pose for a photograph Monday, March 28, 2022, in Sde Boker, Israel. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

Several deadly attacks have struck Israel in recent days, the latest of which was a shooting spree late Tuesday in Bnei Brak that killed five people.

“This violence is unacceptable,” Blinken said in a statement. “Israelis — like all people around the world — should be able to live in peace and without fear.”

read more:
comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed