El Khabar is reporting that the Foreign Ministry in Algiers is “following the developments in Mauritania closely.” According to El Khabar, Algiers believes that it is “too premature to develop any position right now.” The article mentions Algerian investment in Mauritanian infrastructure projects and reminds readers that the two countries have had hot-and-cold relations, especially as a result of the Western Sahara problem and Mauritania’s brief alliance with Morocco during those two countries’ invasion of the Sahara during the 1970’s. In another article, El Khabar writes of Mauritania as “a model in the Arab nation — until yesterday.” Their position seems clear.
The previous article (on the FM’s reaction) furthermore reminds us of Algiers’ commitment to “noninterference in [other countries’] internal affairs.” This dedication to state sovereignty is on display elsewhere in Algeria’s relations, with Bouteflika having received the Sudanese Minister of Industry yesterday, stressing Algeria’s “unwavering support” for that regime and the Minister voicing his appreciation for Algeria’s “strong and clear” position on the Sudanese file. The men also condemned “attempts at hegemony or tutelage in the international community.” Algeria has been one of the most resolute defenders of the Sudanese regime at the UN, its Ambassador there commonly referring to the violations in Darfur as “alleged” acts of violence. The country has become a corner stone of the Beijing consensus on national sovereignty and human rights (the Sudanese Minister called Algeria an “inspiration for resistance” against the international community). Bouteflika is in Beijing for the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, where he is also celebrating 50 years of Sino-Algerian relations. Next week, he will be in Tehran. That will be an interesting visit, and the Russian gas cartel proposal will probably be a topic of discussion. Bouteflika will, for the nXth time, reiterate his support for Iran’s nuclear program and the importance of sovereignty.
But Algiers will likely take whatever France’s position ends up being on Mauritania. As France has become increasingly hostile, Algeria will probably follow that lead, betting that Abdallahi will be reinstalled and aiming for good relations with a leader whose men have rebuffed the Moroccans on the Sahara issue. Their commitment non-intervention might show up rhetorically if France takes some heavy action against the coup (this might be in the cards given Sarkozy’s recent statement), but it may be more muted than it would be otherwise, because this is France we’re talking about. They won’t take issue with the result though. Algeria’s Beijing-style policy will allow it to condone a successful move against the Colonels, but it will not do so boisterously.
At the same time, though, supporting the restoration would give them a good chance to highlight their differences with the Moroccans. Showing up the Moroccans on an issue like the rule of law, which from Algiers’ and its supporters’ vantage point is lacking in Morocco’s Sahara policy, will come before non-interference, especially on such a low-profile issue. The Moroccans were talking as big a game as they can on 29 July, and Algerian papers have responded by highlighting the damage done to Morocco by the closure of the border. We’ll see how this plays into the countries’ relations.