Algeria suspends trade with Spain, but gas supply so far unaffected
Algeria's government suspended foreign trade with Spain other than natural gas on June 9, over Madrid's support for Morocco's proposal to five the disputed Western Sahara area limited regional autonomy.
A former Spanish colony, Western Sahara was annexed by Morocco in 1975. Algeria supports the region's separatist movement and has called for its full independence, rather than autonomy, and the two countries have been locked in a dispute over the territory for decades.
A day before suspending trade with Spain, Algeria also suspended a 20-year old friendship treaty with Spain, under which the two countries cooperated in controlling migration flows. Spain's foreign minister Jose Manuel Albares said on June 9 that Spain's response to Algeria cutting off trade would be "serene, constructive, but also firm in its defence of Spanish interests."
Algeria is Spain's second-largest gas supplier after the US, accounting for 40% of its imports last year. But Spanish energy minister Teresa Ribera has said the government does not anticipate that Algeria's state-owned Sonatrach will break its gas supply contract.
"We don't think the contracts can be unilaterally broken by the decision of the Algerian government," Ribera told Onda Cero radio.
In a statement, Algeria's foreign ministry pledged to respect all gas commitments to Spain. According to Bloomberg, Spanish gas importer Naturgy confirmed on June 9 that it was "business as usual" with Sonatrach.
The diplomatic row comes as Europe scrambles to find extra gas supplies to help phase out Russian imports. Italy reached out to Algeria to get an extra 9bn m3 of annual gas supply earlier this year.