The intense Algeria-Morocco rivalry is highlighted by a football controversy.
The globe can sometimes be brought together by the "beautiful game," but when it comes to Algeria and Morocco, not even soccer can end the long-standing animosity between the two North African neighbors.
This month's African Nations Championship, which was hosted in Algeria, saw Morocco withdraw, igniting the most recent dispute.
The Moroccans announced their decision to withdraw from the competition on January 13 in the hours before it started because they were denied permission to fly directly from Rabat to the Algerian city of Constantine and would not take a different route.
Since August 2021, when Algiers severed ties with Rabat over what it referred to as "hostile measures" against Algeria, Moroccan planes are not permitted to fly over Algeria.
The choice was made when forest fires consumed Algeria's Kabylie area, for which the government laid the blame on "terrorist" organizations and charged Morocco of assisting one of them.
Many Algerians have expressed surprise at Morocco's decision to withdraw from the competition.
Ahmed Zadi, a student from Algeria, spoke to Al Jazeera and said, "The Moroccan government used their recent media exposure after the World Cup to leverage their way into opening the airspace." He was referring to the regional and continental support for Morocco after its successful World Cup campaign in Qatar.
They didn't make these allegations at the previous Mediterranean Games in  because they arrived by regular flight from Tunisia. So it is now clearer that they are attempting to damage our reputation, Zadi remarked.
When the grandson of South Africa's first post-apartheid president, Nelson Mandela, delivered a speech at the tournament's opening ceremony that was harshly received in Morocco, it added gasoline to the fire. Mandla Mandela brought up Western Sahara, where a long-running resistance movement supported by Algeria has pushed for the region's separation from Morocco.
Relations between Algeria and Morocco have been "in a very hazardous position for a while," according to Intissar Fakir, senior fellow and director of the Middle East Institute's North Africa and Sahel Program.
Fakir, referring to the 1963 Sand War and Algeria's support for the Western Saharan armed struggle against Morocco, said that the break that occurred in 2021 "ushered in one of the most tense periods of this relationship that we have seen, probably since the border skirmishes of the 1960s and late 1970s."
More recently, the United States' acknowledgment of Morocco's sovereignty over the Western Sahara and Morocco's normalization of relations with Israel have caused a rapid diplomatic deterioration between Algeria and Morocco.
Fakir stated that it "actually throws a whole new dimension of uncertainty to the military situation in North Africa from the standpoint of Algeria's leadership." Morocco has effectively gone ahead and normalized the connection in such a public and proud fashion, which has really caused uneasiness. Algeria is one of the primary supporters of the Palestinian cause in terms of feeling.
Algiers-based political expert Zine Labidine Ghebouli concurs.
According to Ghebouli, "the Western Sahara issue is the negotiating chip that defines relations between Algiers and Rabat." However, there are more important concerns at play in the ongoing cold war between the two.
In order to increase and consolidate their regional influence throughout North Africa, the Sahel, and the Mediterranean, Ghebouli claimed that both Algiers and Rabat "want to adopt a leadership position for North Africa."
He continued, "This relates to both Rabat's willingness to strengthen its diplomatic posture as the West's partner and Algiers' wish to signal its rebirth as a potent independent player.
According to Fakir, there has been tension in Morocco as it attempts to strike a fine balance between dismissing worries that the situation with Algeria could escalate militarily and avoiding appearing weak.
There is no scenario, in my opinion, in which this Moroccan leadership and this Algerian leadership could ever become friendly neighbors. "I believe Algeria is content to keep things where they are because… it's working well for them in the [current] geopolitical situation with [high] energy and gas prices and Europe being very patient."
Algeria is profiting from the high cost of energy and has increased its gas exports, particularly to Italy and Spain, as a result of a drop in Russian supply.
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