Dispute deepens: Algeria closes airspace

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The Algerian presidency announced on Wednesday that it would close the airspace to all Moroccan flights, for both civilian and military aircraft, less than a month after it severed diplomatic relations with the kingdom.

The decision came “in view of the continued provocations and hostilities on the Moroccan side,” it said in a statement.

The closure also includes all aircraft with a Moroccan registration number, the presidency said after a council meeting.

There was no immediate Moroccan official response. A source at Royal Air Morocco said the closure will only affect 15 flights a week between Morocco and Tunisia, Turkey and Egypt.

The source described the closure as insignificant and said that the relevant flights could redirect across the Mediterranean.

Algeria decided at the end of last month to sever diplomatic relations with Morocco, citing “hostile acts” from the kingdom, citing mainly comments from Morocco’s envoy to New York in favor of self-determination in the Kabylie region of Algeria.

Morocco has said it regrets Algeria’s decision.

Algiers also accused Rabat of supporting MAK, a separatist group that the government has declared a terrorist organization. Authorities blame the group for devastating forest fires, mainly in Kabylie, which killed at least 65 people.

The border between Morocco and Algeria has been closed since 1994 and Algeria has indicated that it will lead gas exports from a pipeline passing through Morocco, which would be renewed later this year.

Conditions have deteriorated since last year, when the Western Sahara issue flared up after years of comparative silence. Morocco sees Western Sahara as its own, but its sovereignty has been contested by the Polisario Front, an Algeria-backed independence movement.

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