US delegation in Algeria to discuss Western Sahara file

A high-level US delegation arrived in Algeria on Wednesday to discuss bilateral cooperation, the Western Sahara file and the situation in Libya and the Sahel.

The delegation includes Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, David Schenker, and the Commander of the US Air Force in Europe and Africa, General Jeffrey Harrigian.

According to a statement issued by the Algerian Foreign Ministry, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sabri Boukadoum, will discuss with the US delegation bilateral, regional and international issues, reported Al-Quds Al-Arabi.

Upon her arrival Barrett said: "We consider Algeria a candid partner, and this is a candid relationship, given the pioneering role that you have shown, so we hope to work with you as partners."

Washington is concerned that its relations with Algeria will be damaged after the deal that outgoing US President Donald Trump concluded with Morocco and Israel, upon which he recognised Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara in exchange for Rabat normalising relations with Israel.

Algeria believes Trump's recognition of Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara has no legal basis and is inconsistent with all United Nations resolutions.

READ: It is time for reconciliation between Morocco and Algeria 

Morocco has been in conflict with the Algeria-backed separatist Polisario group over the Western Sahara since 1975, after the Spanish occupation ended. It turned into an armed confrontation that lasted until 1991 and ended with the signing of a ceasefire agreement.

Rabat insists on its right to govern the region, but proposed autonomous rule in the Western Sahara under its sovereignty, but the Polisario Front wants a referendum to let the people determine the future of the region. Algeria has been supporting the Front's proposal and hosts refugees from the region.

The 1991 ceasefire came to an end last year after Morocco resumed military operations in the El Guergarat crossing, a buffer zone between the territory claimed by the state of Morocco and the self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which the Polisario said was a provocation.

By launching the operation, Morocco "seriously undermined not only the ceasefire and related military agreements but also any chances of achieving a peaceful and lasting solution to the decolonization question of the Western Sahara," Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front, said in a letter to the UN.

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