Tunisia, Algeria and Libya hold talks in Tunis

Leders to reportedly discuss revamping the Arab Maghreb Union to enhance regional co-operation

Tunisia's President Kais Saied, right, receives Libyan Presidential Council chairman Mohamed Al Menfi  at Tunis-Carthage International Airport. AFP
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Algeria's President Abdelmajid Tebboune and the President of Libya’s Presidential Council, Mohamed Al Menfi, have arrived in Tunis on Monday for talks at the invitation of Tunisia's President Kais Saied.

The two leaders and their accompanying delegations were welcomed by Mr Saied at the Tunis Carthage International Airport.

Officials from Libya, Algeria and Tunisia agreed during a meeting in Algiers last month, on the sidelines of the Gas Exporting Countries Summit, that the three North African countries should hold talks every three months to foster partnership and co-operation.

The plan, which seeks to revive of the role of the Arab Maghreb Union, has been criticised as it does not involve Morocco and Mauritania – the two other members of the regional bloc established in 1989.

Mr Tebboune rejected the criticism in an interview with state television this month, saying it was “unacceptable” to isolate anyone in the Maghreb region.

The bloc has suffered several setbacks over the years because of political and diplomatic feuds between its member states, mainly Algeria and Morocco.

According to Mohamed Zakaria Abou Dhahab, a professor of international studies at Rabat's Mohamed V University, the tripartite meeting in Tunis could mark the end of the Arab Maghreb Union bloc, which has been "broken" for years.

“Morocco considers this [the Tunis talks] not only a violation of the 1989 Marrakesh treaty [under which the Arab Maghreb Union was established] but it is also a significant estrangement that would sign the death of the project,” he told The National.

Algeria cut diplomatic ties with Morocco in August 2021 after accusing Rabat of backing “terrorist groups” who allegedly started the deadly wildfires in the country's north-east that year.

Relations between the two countries have been strained by Algeria's perceived support for a decades-old separatist movement in a Moroccan region.

Algeria has no ambassador in Morocco and its embassy's role is limited to providing consular services for its citizens there.

Tunisia’s diplomatic ties with Morocco have also been in crisis after it invited the leader of the separatist group to the eighth Tokyo International Conference of African Development, held in Tunis in 2022.

Morocco immediately withdrew from the event, condemning Mr Saied for what it called “a stab in the back”.

In response, Rabat withdrew its ambassador from Tunis and decreased its diplomatic representation to the level of charge d’affaires, maintaining enough staff for consular services.

The Tunis talks could have a further impact on the two countries' already strained bilateral relations, Mr Abou Dhahab said.

“Kais Saied’s strategic choices have had a direct impact on Tunisian-Moroccan mutual economic interests and despite the existence of a free-trade agreement between the two countries, Tunisia’s strategic alignment with Algeria has certainly made an impact,” he said.

Updated: April 22, 2024, 8:29 PM