Algerian diplomacy has made a remarkable effort lately, pushing to strengthen its presence in the Libyan file and trying to propose a particular Algerian vision for a solution based on a regional partnership with neighboring countries, which are most affected by the deterioration of the situation and the blocking of a political solution in Libya, referring both to the African crisis and giving an expanded role to African efforts through the conflict resolution mechanisms adopted by the African Union, in harmony with the international role that Algeria considers as a guarantor of any interim political agreement that would lead to an end to the escalation of the crisis in Libya.
But why was Algeria less involved in the Libyan file, and what was the secret of the diplomatic approach, which seemed more active and daring in taking a position on the Libyan file?
Reduce the Moroccan role
Algerian-Moroccan relations are of real importance in the Maghreb region and a field of geopolitical competition. The rupture between the two countries has practically upset the role of the Arab Maghreb Union and transformed the file of the conflict between the two countries into one of the hottest and most developing files, with the success of Morocco in the achievement of diplomatic breakthroughs that strengthened its sovereignty over the Moroccan Sahara and deepened its relations with other countries at the international level, led by the United States, whose relations with Morocco under the Republican administration experienced a historic rapprochement which gave Morocco an impetus to play roles in regional issues, in particular the Libyan issue, by adopting the Skhirat agreement and repeated consultations between the House of Representatives and the High Council of State, a role that irritates the Algerian neighbour, which sees in the growing role of Morocco a factor which weakens the movement of Algeria in its geographical neighborhood and reduces its influence, this is what Algeria pushed to organize the Libyan Neighborhood C conference which was planned to build confidence in the results of the national elections which were due to take place on December 24, 2021, before they ended in failure.
Despite Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s statement that no political settlement can take place in Libya without Algeria’s participation, Morocco has moved closer to the Libyans who have chosen it to hold their meetings, which has been considered as a failure of Algerian diplomacy and a security failure that the authorities attributed to the Algerian director of external security, Major General Mohamed Bouzit, dismissed for not having managed regional files, including the file of the Libyan crisis, according to Algerian media.
Egyptian Influence Contest
Algeria has recently been more clear and firm in its support for the leader of the unity government, Abdel Hamid Dabaiba, whom the Algerian president considered the legitimate representative of the Libyan government until the elections. The capital, Tripoli, is a red line, which helped end the war that broke out to control the capital in 2019, underscoring his country’s refusal that Tripoli or any Arab and North African capital be occupied by those qualified of “mercenaries”, adding that when Algeria declared that “Tripoli is a red line, the message reached those who might be interested in the situation”, according to what was reported by the government site Al-Nahar in the time.
The Algerian position contrasts with the Egyptian position, Algeria fearing that armed formations close to Cairo could move closer to its eastern borders with Libya in the framework of an apparently cautious relationship between the two parties, following what has been revealed by the Algerian media, of a new African alliance which brings together Algeria, Nigeria, Ethiopia and South Africa, under the slogan of the Group of 4 or G4, on the initiative of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abi Ahmed, with the aim of coordinating on the issues of the African continent in the future, an alliance born at the height of the Egyptian-Ethiopian conflict around the Renaissance Dam.
The oil boom strengthens the role of Algeria
Observers believe that the Algerian diplomatic regression in foreign files, in particular the Libyan file, and the government’s preoccupation with internal files, are largely due to the economic crisis resulting from the weakness of oil revenues in a rentier economy which highly dependent on gas and crude oil sales, which led to the recording of the 2022 budget deficit reaching up to more than 30 billion dollars, before the Algerian Treasury rebounded again with the increase in oil prices against a backdrop of war in Ukraine, and the price of a barrel of Algerian oil reaching more than a hundred dollars, a boom the country has not experienced since 2014 after years of austerity policies and rationalization of expenditure. This was not part of the increase in the accounts of the current government, which based its budget on a barrel price of around $45.
A boom that brings Algeria back to the forefront of international attention with Europe looking for alternatives to Russian gas imports that make Libya and Algeria the ideal destination plus proximity factors with the European market and the low transport and production costs in these two countries, which means Algeria’s double focus on Libya, with which it shares the oil and gas fields of the Ghadames sites, including the Algerian oil company Sonatrach previously carried out exploration and discovery operations in partnership with the Libyan Oil Corporation in the adjacent border area, a partnership that strongly pushes Algeria to strengthen its presence in Libya.
Fears of an expanding terrorist threat
Algeria has tested the danger of the Libyan arena and its threat to Algerian territory, after the events of the attack on the Ain Amenas field, adjacent to Libya, which led to the disruption of field work and the threat to the Algerian energy industry.
Real security threats with the absence of a Libyan security partner with whom to engage in security control operations at the border and the escalation of threats on its southern borders with Mali, in which jihadist groups are active, in plus separatists from the Islamist-oriented Azawad movement that occasionally attacks Algerian sites, exacerbating security challenges for the sprawling country that is trying to regain control over the pathways of regional transformation in a way that serves its policies and strengthens its security.