Algeria recalls Spain envoy over Western Sahara policy change

Algeria has recalled its ambassador to Spain over Madrid’s recent change of policy on Western Sahara.

The move comes hours after Spain announced that it was endorsing a Moroccan plan for autonomy in the contested Western Sahara region in what Madrid called the beginning of “a new phase in relations.”

Madrid noted that the new phase will be “based on mutual respect, the completion of agreements, the absence of unilateral actions and the permanent transparency of communication.”

Western Sahara was partitioned between Morocco and Mauritania at the end of Spain’s colonial rule in 1976. When Mauritania, under pressure from Polisario guerrillas, abandoned all claims to its portion in August 1979, Morocco moved to occupy that sector and asserted administrative control over the whole territory. Fighting broke out between Morocco and the pro-independence Polisario Front, an independence movement backed by neighboring Algeria.

A cease-fire was signed in 1991. A United Nations mission, MINURSO, was deployed that year to monitor the cease-fire and to organize, if possible, a referendum on the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.

(With input from agencies)