ALGIERS: Algeria has said it is ready to divert all its Spain-bound natural gas exports via an undersea pipeline that bypasses Morocco, state media said, days after Algiers cut ties with its North African rival.
In a meeting with Spanish Ambassador Fernando Moran, Energy Minister Mohamed Arkab stressed “Algeria’s full commitment to cover all of Spain’s natural gas supplies through the Medgaz” pipeline, said a statement quoted by the official APS news agency.
Algeria exports natural gas to Spain via both the Medgaz pipeline and the higher-capacity GME pipeline which runs overland through Morocco.
But on Tuesday Algiers abruptly cut diplomatic relations with its western neighbor over alleged “hostile actions,” accusations Rabat has dismissed as “absurd.”
The rift came just over two months before the GME pipeline, currently owned by Spanish gas giant Naturgy, passes into Moroccan ownership on Nov. 1.
Negotiations over Algeria’s continued access to the pipeline had already been complicated by growing strains in ties between Algiers and Rabat.
Last Saturday, Morocco had said it wanted to keep open the GME pipeline, which carries about half of Algeria’s gas exports to Spain.
But ties have collapsed, particularly after Algeria accused Morocco of complicity in deadly forest fires that killed at least 90 people.
Morocco’s normalization of ties with Israel last year as a quid pro quo for US recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara also angered Algiers.
The Medgaz pipeline’s capacity of some 8 billion cubic meters per year to Spain is set to be expanded by 25 percent. But this higher capacity alone will not be able to handle what Algeria has historically exported to Spain, according to the Middle East Economic Survey.
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