Moroccan and Algerian delegations brawl over Western Sahara, Iran at pre-Arab Summit meeting
The Moroccan-Algerian rivalry has seemed to taint an upcoming Arab League summit, the first meeting in two years, in which officials from the two states will go tete-a-tete.
Over the weekend, Arab foreign ministers met in Algiers to discuss the agenda of the 31st Arab League summit, which will take place on 1-2 November.
Disagreements soon emerged between the host country and the Moroccan delegation, reportedly, because of a map dividing Morocco and Western Sahara - a disputed territory that Rabat considers it's own.
The map controversy started when the state-channel AL24 News published a map halting the disputed territory from Morocco's map.
قناة الجزائر الدولية تعتذر عن استخدام خريطة للوطن العربي غير تلك المعتمدة من الجامعة العربية— AL24news - قناة الجزائر الدولية (@AL24newschannel) October 29, 2022
قناة الجزائر الدولية تؤكد أن ذلك لا يعدو إلا أن يكون خطأ فنياً من قسم الجرافيكس pic.twitter.com/r0jANzwnoh
The Arab League was quick to distance itself from the map, saying it does not have "any media partners" for the coverage of the Algeria-hosted Arab summit.
"The pan-Arab body does not adopt an official map on which political borders of the Arab countries are shown, including the Kingdom of Morocco," added the statement.
The league said it adopts instead a borderless map of the Arab world "to reinforce the concept of Arab unity."
On Sunday, the Algerian channel apologised "for using a map not approved by the Arab League," saying it was a "technical error."
Initial media reports said the Moroccan delegation had walked out of the preparatory meeting in protest of the map, but Moroccan media denied the reports.
The preparatory meeting on Sunday has also witnessed another Moroccan-Algerian quarrel with both countries' foreign ministers spatting over discussing Iran's role in Western Sahara, according to the Saudi channel Al-Arabiya.
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita reportedly demanded that Iranian supplies of drones to the Polisario Front, a separatist movement fighting against Morocco in Western Sahara, should be added to the meeting agenda.
Bourita's Algerian counterpart Ramtane Lamamra reportedly refused the proposal.
"You don’t have the right to refuse (…) there's a vote and a consensus," responded Bourita, according to Al-Arabiya's report.
Rabat cut diplomatic ties with Tehran in 2018, accusing Iran and Tehran-backed Lebanese party Hezbollah of sponsoring "Polisario's offence" against the Kingdom.
Both Iran and Hezbollah have denied the allegations.
Meanwhile, local media Morocco World News said Sunday that the Moroccan delegation in Algiers is facing several "provocative" actions from Algeria's organising committee that go against diplomatic protocols.
The rising controversies have cast a shadow over the Moroccan King's mooted appearance at the summit on Tuesday - a rare appearance that may soothe the North African rivalry.
Morocco’s foreign minister Bourita told reporters in Algiers that "Mohammed VI has yet to decide whether the conditions for his participation have been met".
Historically fraught ties between the two countries weakened further in August 2021, when Algeria severed diplomatic ties with Morocco over its "hostile acts" in Western Sahara and its normalisation of ties with Israel.