SPAIN’S government vowed to ‘defend’ its national interests just hours after Algeria announced the decision to suspend a 20-year-old treaty of friendship and cooperation.

Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares on Thursday insisted gas imports from the north African country were not at risk amid the diplomatic row over Madrid’s change in stance towards the disputed Western Sahara.

Relations between Spain and Algeria have been strained following Madrid’s public support of Morocco’s autonomy plan for the disputed territory.

On Wednesday it came to a head when Algeria officially called off a 2002 friendship deal with Spain.

“Algeria has decided to immediately suspend the treaty of friendship, good neighbourliness and co-operation,” the Algerian presidency said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

Algeria insisted that Spain’s move had been “in violation of its legal, moral and political obligations” towards the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony.

Algeria supports the Polisario in a bid for indendepence for the Western Sahara, 80% of which is currently controlled by Morocco.

But in agreeing to Rabat’s plan offering limited autonomy with the region remaining under Moroccan sovereignty, Madrid had thereby “given its full support to an illegal and illegitimate formula… advocated by the occupying power”.

The issue is complicated by the fact that Spain relies heavily on Algeria for natural gas supplies, a dependence accentuated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushing up energy prices.

Algeria’s Sonatrach supplies Spain with more than 40% of its imported natural gas, most brought in via the underwater Medgaz pipeline. Another supply route to Spain was cut off with the closure of the Maghreb Europe pipeline that crosses Morocco ater Algeria called off ties with its neighbour last August.

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