By Riad Beladi
Algeria, since gaining independence from France, has established itself as a country with highly skilled diplomats and a rich history of diplomatic engagement. Over the years, Algerian diplomats have actively participated in mediating political conflicts, demonstrating their ability to foster dialogue and seek peaceful resolutions. This experience positions Algeria as a potential key player in negotiating the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.
Algeria’s diplomatic expertise stems from its own struggle for independence and its subsequent efforts to navigate the complexities of international relations. The country’s successful liberation from French colonial rule in 1962 was a testament to its diplomatic acumen and ability to rally international support for its cause. The Algerian independence movement, supported by the Soviet Union, faced significant challenges in its fight against French colonial forces. However, Algeria’s diplomatic corps skillfully maneuvered through various negotiations and secured crucial alliances that ultimately led to its independence.
Since then, Algerian diplomats have honed their skills in mediation and conflict resolution. Algeria’s diplomatic achievements include facilitating peace talks in several regional conflicts, such as the civil war in Chad in the 1980s and the Western Sahara dispute. In these instances, Algerian diplomats showcased their ability to bring opposing parties to the negotiating table, mediate discussions, and broker agreements that helped restore stability and peace.
Algeria’s experience as a mediator and its reputation as a neutral and trusted actor in international affairs make it well-suited to play a significant role in the negotiation process for the Russia-Ukraine war. The conflict, characterized by geopolitical complexities and heightened tensions, demands a nuanced and diplomatic approach. Algerian diplomats, known for their tact, perseverance, and ability to navigate sensitive political landscapes, can contribute to fostering dialogue and finding common ground between the conflicting parties.
Moreover, Algeria’s geographical location provides a strategic advantage, as it serves as a bridge between Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. This positioning allows Algeria to understand the interests and concerns of various regional actors, enabling its diplomats to engage effectively with all stakeholders involved in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. By leveraging its diplomatic channels, Algeria can actively promote dialogue, encourage de-escalation, and work towards a peaceful resolution that respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of both Russia and Ukraine.
It is important to recognize that successfully mediating the Russia-Ukraine conflict will require collective efforts from multiple international actors. However, Algeria’s history of diplomatic achievements, its expertise in conflict resolution, and its reputation as a trusted mediator make it a potential valuable player in these negotiations. By utilizing its diplomatic skills and regional influence, Algeria can contribute to fostering an atmosphere of trust and dialogue, paving the way for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Visit to Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune signed multiple agreements in Moscow aimed at deepening their “strategic partnership,” as the Kremlin seeks to strengthen its presence in Africa.
While Tebboune has not yet officially confirmed his visit to France, the Algerian president reaffirmed the privileged relations between Algiers and Moscow, which date back to when the Soviet Union supported Algerian independence fighters during the war against the former French colonial power (1954-1962). According to the French presidency, Paris and Algiers are still “in discussions to find a suitable date” for the highly anticipated visit of the Algerian president to France.
Initially scheduled for early May, Tebboune’s visit had been postponed to June due to concerns that it might be overshadowed by the May 1st demonstrations against retirement reforms, according to reliable sources.
However, Tebboune never confirmed his visit, which was supposed to cement the improvement in relations between the two countries after numerous diplomatic crises. “This is yet another episode in the tumultuous and complex relationship between Paris and Algiers,” summarizes Brahim Oumansour, Director of the Maghreb Observatory at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (Iris) in Paris.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune signing agreements at the Kremlin in Moscow on June 15, 2023. Passive Colonial Legacy Beyond the displayed friendship between the two presidents, the relationship between France and Algeria remains characterized by mistrust, misunderstandings, and unspoken issues.
“All of this is still very uncertain, random, and contradictory,” admits a French diplomatic source. In Algiers, anti-French sentiment resurfaces regularly amid tensions.
The debate in France regarding a potential reconsideration of the migration agreement concluded in 1968 with Algeria has not helped. With 18 months until the Algerian presidential election, a visit by President Tebboune to France could work against him, suggests Brahim Oumansour.
The colonial legacy still weighs heavily on both countries. The Algerian government, stemming from the war of independence, draws its legitimacy from it. It is a true “memorial rent,” as Emmanuel Macron remarked in 2021, sparking the ire of Algiers.
Algeria, a candidate for entry into the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) club, may also prefer to “avoid any false notes with a visit to Paris,” continues the IRIS expert. The BRICS seek to position themselves as an alternative to the Western-dominated world order. As a regional power rivaling Morocco, Algeria aspires to play in the big leagues.
Risky Gamble for France The visit to Moscow is not necessarily viewed unfavorably in Paris. “Algeria is a mediator, someone who can engage with others that we don’t talk to. The fact that they engage with the Russians is, to some extent, a good thing,” believes the same diplomatic source.
However, Emmanuel Macron remains far from his goal of reconciling memories and reviving the Franco-Algerian relationship, especially on the economic front.
By giving increased attention to Algeria, he has also strained an already difficult relationship with Morocco. “France’s balancing act between the two countries is seen more as a double game,” notes Brahim Oumansour.
Rabat and Paris have been at odds for months, with relations remaining frozen – there is still no Moroccan ambassador in France. The main cause of this serious rift is the restrictions on granting visas to Moroccan nationals, a measure officially lifted in December.
However, Morocco primarily reproaches France for not aligning with the United States and Spain, both of which have recognized Moroccan