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Algeria - Foreign Relations

Algeria has traditionally practiced an activist foreign policy and, in the 1960s and 1970s, was noted for its support of Third World policies and independence movements. Algerian diplomacy was instrumental in obtaining the release of U.S. hostages from Iran in 1981. Since his first election in 1999, President Bouteflika worked to restore Algeria's international reputation, traveling extensively throughout the world. In July 2001, he became the first Algerian President to visit the White House in 16 years. He has made official visits to France, South Africa, Italy, Spain, Germany, China, Japan, Portugal, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Latin American countries, among others, since his inauguration.

Algeria has taken the lead in working on issues related to the African continent. Host of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Conference in 2000, Algeria also was key in bringing Ethiopia and Eritrea to the peace table in 2000. In 2001, the 37th summit of the OAU formally adopted the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) to address the challenges facing the continent. In 2006, Algeria negotiated the Algiers Accords between the Malian Government and Tuareg rebel groups and has continued to play an active role in seeking resolution to that conflict. In August 2009, Algeria initiated a regional counterterrorism approach with Mali, Niger, and Mauritania, seeking to increase security cooperation and address the root causes of instability in the region. In recent months, Algerians also campaigned publicly for strengthening the international legal regime against ransom payment for terrorist kidnappings, including the call for a UN-sponsored resolution condemning such payments.

Since 1976, Algeria has supported the Polisario Front, which claims to represent the indigenous population of Western Sahara. A staunch defender of the Sahrawi right to self-determination under the UN Charter, Algeria has provided the Polisario with support and sanctuary in refugee camps in the southwestern Algerian province of Tindouf. UN involvement in the Western Sahara includes MINURSO, a peacekeeping force, UNHCR, which handles refugee assistance and resettlement, and the World Food Program (WFP). Active diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute under the auspices of the United Nations Secretary General are ongoing.

Algeria's support of self-determination for the Sahrawi is in opposition to Morocco's claim of sovereignty over Western Sahara. The dispute remains a major obstacle to bilateral and regional cooperation. Although the land border between Morocco and Algeria was closed in the wake of a 1994 terrorist attack in Marrakech, Morocco lifted visa requirements for Algerians in July 2004. Algeria reciprocated by lifting visa requirements for Moroccans on April 2, 2005. Algeria has friendly relations with its neighbors Tunisia and Libya, and with its sub-Saharan neighbors, Mali and Niger. It closely monitors developments in the Middle East and has been a strong proponent of the rights of the Palestinian people, as well as a supporter of Iraq's democratic transition.

Algeria has diplomatic relations with more than 100 foreign countries, and over 90 countries maintain diplomatic representation in Algiers. Algeria held a nonpermanent, rotating seat on the UN Security Council from January 2004 to December 2005. Algeria hosted 13 Arab leaders at the Arab League Summit, March 22-23, 2005.

Algeria's economy was badly hit by a drastic reduction in oil prices, so its government found the need to diversify into other economic resources, and through doing so, Iran made great inroads as a trading partner. With the launching of a production line for Iranian vehicles, plus another for the production of medicines, and with the two countries boosting their cooperation enormously in the private sector, Iran ensnared Algeria through an ongoing succession of trade deals.

In December 2015, following Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal’s visit to Tehran, Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri paid a visit to Algeria. But what caused so much controversy over the trips, was the fact that at that time Algeria had rejected various initiatives put forward to resolve the crises in both Syria and Yemen, which gave many outsiders the impression that Algeria was siding with the Iran-Russia alliance, and through Algeria’s refusal to recognise any of the Syrian opposition groups, it had further isolated itself from the position being taken by the Saudis and the Gulf States.

Then in early in 2016, after Algiers voiced its reservations over the Arab League’s decision to ban Hezbollah, further concerns were raised over Algeria becoming too close to the Lebanese terror group. This had followed Riyadh and Algeria being at loggerheads over the Saudi Coalition’s military intervention in Yemen during 2015, after Algeria had refused to commit its army, and was doing its utmost not to side with the Coalition’s stance on the Yemen conflict.

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