While the date of President Tebboune’s next visit to Moscow has still not been announced, the Algerian authorities are under new pressure regarding their close relations with the Russian Federation. Seventeen MEPs sent, on Wednesday 16 November, a letter to Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, in order to request the revision of the Association Agreement between the European Union and Algeria, signed in 2002 and entered into force in 2005.
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Led by Andrius Kubilius, former Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania and Chairman of the EPP Group (European People’s Party – Christian Democrats), MEPs are concerned about the increasingly close ties between Russia and Algeria, links which they say translate into “political, logistical and financial support for Putin’s aggression on Ukraine.”
The 17 signatory MPs (elected from Lithuania, France, Denmark, Estonia, Sweden, Bulgaria, Finland, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia) list thus the elements which attest to the supposed support of Algeria for the war that Vladimir Putin is waging in Ukraine.
Algiers still abstains from the UN
Algiers, first of all, abstained from voting for the UN resolution of March 2, 2022 which “demands that Russia immediately cease to use force against Ukraine”. She did not either, add the signatories, voted on April 7 the decision of the General Assembly of the United Nations to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council (HRC). On October 12, Algeria once again abstained from voting on the resolution on the “illegal” annexation of four Ukrainian regions by Russia. For the 17 MEPs, all these abstentions are signs that Algiers supports “the geopolitical aspirations of Russia”.
In support of their request, the signatories of the petition also indicate that Algeria is “among the top four buyers of Russian arms in the world, with in particular an arms contract worth more than 7 billion dollars in 2021. (6 billion euros on this date) and that “this military transfer has made Algeria the third largest beneficiary of Russian arms in the world”. Any flow of money to Russia can only strengthen its war machine in Ukraine, add the signatories.
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For the 17 MEPs, Algeria is thus providing financial support for the aggression against Ukraine, which constitutes a violation of Article 2 of the 2005 Association Agreement, which stipulates that “respect for democratic principles and fundamental human rights, as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, inspires the internal and international policies of the Parties and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement”.
The signatories therefore urge the EU to take steps to ensure that its partners are not tempted to finance the Russian government by buying equipment military. They also demand that the European Union ask Algeria to sign and ratify the Arms Trade Treaty, which regulates the international trade in conventional arms (entered into force on December 24, 2014).
A contract that does not exist
Problem: by basing their demonstration on the existence of a $7 billion arms purchase contract signed with Moscow in 2021, the 17 MEPs are in fact repeating old information already used by Republican Senator Marc Rubio, former candidate for the nomination of his party against Donald Trump, in September. A month later, a group of 27 elected members of Congress took up the same argument to ask Secretary of State Antony Blinken to take sanctions against certain Algerian officials whom they accused of massive arms purchases from the Russia.
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However, Algiers and Moscow did not sign, in 2021, any arms contract of 7 billion dollars. The total amount of equipment exports from Russia to Algeria for that year was $985 million, according to a situational report by the Russian Federal Customs Service made public in September 2021. And $2 billion in 2020. If Russia remains Algeria’s main arms supplier, the two countries have never signed an amount of such magnitude in one year.
After years of negotiations, Vladimir Putin had also agreed, in March 2006, to convert the military debt of 4.5 billion dollars that Algeria had contracted with the USSR in the 1960s and 1970s. In exchange, Algiers had agreed to sign a 3.5 billion dollar contract including the purchase of various military equipment, including 28 Sukhoi SU-30 MKI fighters, 40 MiG-29 SMT fighters, 8 S-300 PMU anti-aircraft missile groups and 40 chars T-90.