Blinken visits Algeria in shadow of Ukraine war

Blinken visits Algeria in shadow of Ukraine war
Antony Blinken is holding talks with Algeria, with hopes that the gas rich nation will boost production, to replace what was lost from Russia.
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The trip marked Blinken's first visit to Algeria [Getty]

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived Wednesday in Algeria, a Moscow ally and major gas producer that has faced calls to boost exports to Europe after prices soared following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

Blinken touched down at Boumediene Airport and headed to meet Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra on his first visit as top US diplomat to the North African country.

He had flown in from Algeria's arch-rival Morocco, which in 2020 normalised ties with Israel under a deal that sparked renewed tensions over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Relations between Washington and Algiers have soured since the deal struck under then president Donald Trump

At time, the Trump administration recognised Moroccan sovereignty over the phosphate-rich desert territory, where Algeria has long backed the Polisario independence movement.

Blinken was to spend six hours in Algeria, including a working lunch with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

He may use the trip to urge Algeria to reopen a pipeline that carried Algerian natural gas through Moroccan territory to Spain, to help European countries reduce their energy dependence on Russia.

The GME pipeline closed last year after Algiers declined to renew a 25-year export deal following a spike in tensions.

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Algerian media reported this month that the government had rejected a request by Blinken's deputy Wendy Sherman to re-open the conduit.

State department official Yael Lempert said Blinken was to "discuss regional security and stability, commercial cooperation and advancing human rights and fundamental freedom".

In Morocco on Tuesday, Blinken reiterated support for a Moroccan autonomy plan for the Western Sahara, which he described as "serious, credible and realistic".

Blinken earlier this week attended an unprecedented summit in Israel with Arab foreign ministers.

Several deadly attacks have struck Israel in recent days, the latest of which was a shooting spree late Tuesday in Bnei Brak that killed five people.

"This violence is unacceptable," Blinken said in a statement. "Israelis -- like all people around the world -- should be able to live in peace and without fear."