Algerian-Moroccan problems continue to hinder holding Maghreb summit
Algeria-Morocco, Politics, 1/4/2003
Moroccan minister of foreign affairs and cooperation, Mohamed Benaissa, said in Algiers Saturday that the date of a Maghreban summit will be set by the five states' heads of state.
Benaissa told reporters following the closing of the UMA foreign ministers' council in Algiers the Union council chairmanship, held by Algeria, will conduct consultations to this end.
Algerian foreign minister, Abdelaziz Belkhadem, had said the summit will be held shortly in Algeria.
A summit of the UMA grouping set up in 1989 by Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia was scheduled last June in Algeria but was postponed.
Algerian foreign minister, Abdelaziz Belkhadem, said Friday a Maghreban summit will be held in the near future, without specifying a precise date.
The head of the Algerian diplomacy told the Algerian TV the meeting of foreign ministers of the five UMA member-countries (Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia) has helped bring views closer and reached an agreement on the principle of holding the UMA summit.
He said the summit date will be set through diplomatic channels.
A UMA summit was scheduled for last June but was postponed. The latest UMA summit was held in 1994.
For Moroccan minister of foreign affairs and cooperation, it is important to convene the summit after all pending issues between member states are settled. Benaissa told Qatar-based "Al Jazeera" TV channel the real problem is not the summit but the reactivation of the regional grouping mechanisms as divergences persist, insisting, however, that Morocco does not oppose convening a summit.
"I cannot see how the Maghreban union can be reactivated when several problems are still pending," he went on citing the Moroccan Sahara issue.
The present situation in the Arab world and the impending war threats require from us to unify ranks and consolidate the Maghreban entity, he stressed.
Moroccan minister of foreign affairs and cooperation, Mohamed Benaissa, said here Friday that to date there is no official plans to hold a Moroccan-Algerian meeting.
The head of the Moroccan diplomacy, who took part in the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) foreign ministers council, told reporters no meeting is planned to examine the issues of borders and Sahara but stressed that "Moroccans are always ready to discuss with their Algerian brothers everything, whether the Sahara issue, borders or any bilateral issues."
He went on that this kind of encounters, like the UMA foreign ministers council, are a means to lower difficulties and that this is the only approach to reactivate the Arab Maghreb Union.
"We cannot imagine how the union can be revived when one of its member-countries is threatened in its territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty," he went on insisting that establishing partnership, brotherhood and cooperation is impossible amidst feelings of frustration, threats and danger.
Benaissa further urged for settling divergences through dialogue and for finding a no winner-no loser formula to the problem of Moroccan-Algerian closed land borders, the Sahara issue and other questions between brother and neighbor countries.
Although he noted the existence of "good will" to move forward, he said it is "unrealistic" to speak of enhancing trade exchanges and cooperation with closed borders. "We need to sit down, negotiate and clarify things between us," he said.
Of the holding a Moroccan-Algerian summit, the Moroccan official said "everything will take place in due course."
Divergences within the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) concern all of its member-states, not only Morocco and Algeria, said Friday Moroccan minister of foreign affairs and cooperation, Mohamed Benaissa, on the fringes of the UMA foreign ministers council that closed this Saturday in Algeria.
"We have not yet reached a formula to handle these divergences in objectivity and sincerity," the head of the Moroccan diplomacy told Moroccan TV channel "2M."
For Benaissa, the real problem does not lie in convening a UMA summit but in the "persisting deep divergences that affect the states' sovereignty, territorial integrity and internal situation."
He further recalled that Algeria considers that the treaty setting up the UMA is not an appropriate legal text for the reactivation of the grouping, as stressed by Algerian foreign minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem in the UMA foreign ministers council opening session.
The UMA- set up in 1989 by the five north African countries- has been brought to a standstill because of divergences between Morocco and Algeria over the latter's direct backing to the Polisario separatists that claim the independence of Moroccan southern provinces.
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