By Abdel Razek Abdallah and Ali Semerci
ALGIERS (AA) – Algeria summoned the Moroccan ambassador late Wednesday to protest accusations that Algiers had helped facilitate alleged Iranian support for the separatist Polisario Front.
Speaking to Algeria’s official news agency APS, Algerian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abdulaziz bin Ali al-Sharif said Moroccan ambassador Hasan Abdulhalik was summoned to the Foreign Ministry.
Sharif said the ambassador was informed that the Algerian government completely rejects “untrue statements ” made Tuesday by Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita which were indirectly attributed to Algeria.
Earlier Wednesday, Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported that Iran’s embassy in Algiers had dismissed the suggestion that it had “any relations” with the Polisario Front, which demands independence for Morocco’s Western Sahara region.
Later the same day, Polisario officials also denied any collaboration between the Front and Hezbollah, the Sahara Press Service (SPS) reported.
“The Moroccan government’s claims are baseless,” SPS quoted Paris-based Front representative Bashir Abi Bouchraya as saying, calling on Rabat to “provide evidence of its assertions”.
On Tuesday, Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita announced that his country had severed ties with Tehran over alleged ties between Lebanon’s Hezbollah — a close ally of Iran — and the Polisario.
Speaking to reporters in Rabat, Bourita went on to say that Morocco had decided to close its embassy in Tehran and asked Iran's ambassador to leave the country.
He attributed the move to “the engagement of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah in a relationship” with the Polisario Front, which he said “threatens our country’s security and stability”.
Bourita went on to allege that Morocco had “evidence” that Hezbollah was providing funds to the Algeria-backed separatist movement. He refrained, however, from saying what this alleged evidence was.
“Rabat also has information that Iranian diplomats at the embassy in Algiers have facilitated meetings between Hezbollah and Polisario leaders,” the foreign minister said.
What’s more, Hezbollah has provided the separatist group with weapons, he asserted, claiming the Hezbollah-Polisario relationship had begun in 2016.
Occupied by Spain until 1975, Western Sahara — a large territory in southern Morocco — has remained the subject of a dispute between Rabat and the Algeria-backed Polisario Front for more than four decades.
Since the early 1970s, the Polisario Front, a self-proclaimed national liberation movement, has demanded an independent state in Western Sahara.
Rabat says the region is an integral part of Morocco. It has nevertheless proposed a system by which Western Sahara might enjoy some autonomy while formally remaining under Moroccan sovereignty.
The Polisario Front, meanwhile, wants to see a popular referendum held in Western Sahara to decide the region’s political fate.