Will Tunisia and Algeria limit themselves to reopening borders?

Several issues, including gas and the dispute over Western Sahara, continue to weigh on relations between Algeria and Tunisia, despite the reopening of land borders between the two countries, and although the recent visit of Tunisian President Kais Saied to Algeria seems to have succeeded in them out of the rut.

The announcement of the reopening of the country’s borders represented a step forward in the silent crisis between the two countries, as the closure has greatly affected Tunisia, notes the Al-Monitor website, stressing that Tunisia, which has been struggling with a serious economic crisis for two years, is heavily dependent on these crossing points, which are an important source of tourism and trade for Tunisia, however, knowing that the authorities of the two countries have invariably confirmed that the maintenance of the closure was aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

But other factors appear to have delayed the reopening of the borders, including disputes over several regional issues, Al-Monitor said. Citing a knowledgeable Algerian political source, he says the disputes between the two countries have led Algeria to pressure Tunisia on several issues, including delaying the reopening of the border.

Among the issues that may have contributed to the silent tensions is Tunisia’s position on the conflict in Western Sahara between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front.

In the past, Tunisia has tried to distance itself from the Western Sahara conflict, while Algeria has tried in vain to attract Tunisia to its side.

Former Tunisian Foreign Minister Ahmed Ounaies told Al-Monitor: “This [les tentatives de l’Algérie pour attirer la Tunisie] is not excluded. Algeria may have tried to pressure Tunisia to join its position on the conflict in Western Sahara, but Tunisia’s position remains neutral. I don’t think our authorities will drop this card. »

Ounaies added: “The opening of the borders was an expected decision for several reasons. First, Algerian leaders trust Kais Saied as president of Tunisia and they are familiar with him. Second, Algeria seeks to play a regional role, and Kais Saied’s visit can help it do that. Third, and most importantly, Algeria will host the Arab League summit in November. It is therefore working to mobilize Arab support and to carry the torch of the summit presidency after Tunisia . [en 2019]. »

Several pending cases

Despite the announcement of the opening of country borders, it is not certain that the relations between Tunisia and Algeria will fully recover because several other issues are pending, given the political situation in Tunisia, the cradle of the Arab Spring.

Tunisia negotiated a remarkable turning point last year when Saied attacked his opponents through the resolutions of July 25, 2021, the proclamation of the state of emergency, and l. He invoked a chapter of the constitution which lays down the procedures for the state of emergency. He has been taking that series of prescriptions ever since.

Initially, Algeria was enthusiastic and supportive of these measures. Yet his position on Saied’s measures has changed in recent months. The picture became clearer when Tebboune said on May 26 from the Italian capital, Rome, that Tunisia was in a political deadlock and needed support to restore democracy.

The disputes between the neighboring countries do not seem to focus exclusively on the political path of Tunisia and the dispute over the Western Sahara issue. Tunisia has valid concerns about Algeria’s increase in gas prices given the global energy crisis.

Abdelkader Jelassi, general secretary of the Federation of Electricity and Gas of the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT), warned in May of a catastrophic situation that the country could witness in the event of an increase in prices. gas and predicts that an electricity crisis could result.

Algeria sells gas to Tunisia at favorable prices, and the latter has a right of passage of 5.25% of the total Algerian gas transported through Tunisian territory to Italy.

On the other hand, Algeria has expressed concern over a potential Tunisian normalization with Israel, despite Saied saying during his 2019 election campaign that “normalization with Israel amounts to treason. UGTT Secretary General Noureddine Taboubi appears to have fueled these concerns when he said in June that “there is a campaign to draw Tunisia into normalization with Israel. »

Algerian National Liberation Front leader Kassi Abdelkader told Al-Monitor: “There was a debate about the possibility of normalizing ties between Tunisia and the Zionist entity [Israël]. We believe that the Tunisian people reject this, so Algeria will not support Tunisia in such a decision. »

Abdelkader said: “Now things are becoming clearer and what happened is just a temporary situation between our countries. Even the brothers have differences, but there will be no problems in the future between Algeria and Tunisia. All issues will be settled regardless of whether they relate to gas, borders or other subjects. »

Although the opening of the land borders seems to be an indication of the beginning of the resumption of Tunisian-Algerian relations, other measures will have to be taken to ensure this resumption. It will be a challenge for both sides in the next phase, predicts Al-Monitor.

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