Spain and gas supplier Algeria clash over disputed territory

(Bloomberg) — Algeria, Spain’s biggest supplier of natural gas, has recalled its ambassador to Madrid for consultations after the Spanish government sided with Morocco in a North African territorial dispute.

Friction over the status of Western Sahara could cause problems for Spain at a time when countries in Europe seek alternative sources of gas following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Spain signaled on Friday that it supports Moroccan plans to grant limited autonomy to the territory, which has been a historical source of tension with Algeria.

The move follows the “sudden reversal” of Spain’s stance on Western Sahara, Algerian news agency APS reported on Saturday, citing a statement from the Foreign Ministry. The change of Spain abandoned its policy of neutrality towards the territory, which it once ruled.

For years, Spain received Algerian gas through two pipelines, one directly from Algeria and the other via Morocco. Algeria stopped pumping gas through the Moroccan pipeline last year, prompting Spain to import more gas by ship, which is more expensive.

Algeria and Morocco severed diplomatic ties last year, while Spain and Morocco have previously clashed over immigration from North Africa to Spain’s southern coast.

“The Spanish government had previously informed Algeria of its position regarding the Sahara,” the Spanish government said in a statement on Saturday. “For Spain, Algeria is a strategic, priority and loyal partner.”

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