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Tebboune’s unfulfilled diplomatic initiatives

 Algeria could not join the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), which was enlarged in August 2023 to include six other countries (Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates). And it wasn’t from a lack of trying. It’s just that President Tebboune’s very enthusiastic effort to make the country adhere to the group ended in an obvious failure. 

More than any other project, admission into the BRICS was supposed to confirm the performance of Algerian diplomacy and, henceforth, its reacquired status among nations. “The new Algeria” of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune was also supposed to be that of diplomatic successes. But between wishes and achievements, there is many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip.

The BRICS summit, which was held in Johannesburg from August 22 to 24, 2023, did not accept Algeria’s candidacy. It preferred to it, among African candidacies, those of Egypt and Ethiopia. Russian and Chinese sponsorships, upon which Tebboune was counting enormously, were not effective. We know through the summit’s backstage talk, published in the Indian newspaper “The Wire”, that Algeria was not on the short list of candidacies to support by China and Russia. 

On the diplomatic front, Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s two state visits, first to Russia and then to China, have thus not been fruitful.

Algeria has verified this at the very first real test: the supposed supporters of its BRICS candidacy chose to look elsewhere. And the words of Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, following the closing ceremony of Johannesburg summit, were not compliments either. “The weight, the authority and the position of a candidate country on the international scene were the main considered factors”, he said. 

Algeria’s failure to join the BRICS was all the more resonant because, before the South African summit, President Tebboune was certain that everything will go well, convinced as he was of having rallied the Russians and the Chinese to his cause. Disillusion was so big that he decided, with a heavy heart and just as convinced, to definitely put an end to the BRICS project. He said as much to the owners and directors of media outlets he met on Tuesday, October 3, 2023. 

Announcements feeding a populist discourse

From Moscow where he was on a state visit in mid-June 2023, President Tebboune stated that his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, had agreed to the Algerian proposition to head a mediation on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. But the good predisposition shown by the Russian head of state is far from being a guarantee of success for the initiative that Algeria wanted to take. 

Confronted with European prevarication, and even rejection of its mediation project, Algeria found itself in a near-solitary approach, which, for a case as heavy as this one, is bound to fail. 

Sent to some European capitals, Foreign minister Ahmed Attaf did not succeed in securing adherence to the proposition of his country. The task was all the more delicate when Algeria had just signed with Russia, a side in the conflict, a “declaration of an in-depth strategic partnership”. 

Ukrainians themselves did not show enthusiasm towards the initiative. Moreover, they blame Algeria for not even showing sympathy, not even on a humanitarian basis, with the Ukrainian people. 

It was Oleksander Kompaiicts, the Ukrainian chargé d’affaires, who expressed the sentiment: “Ukrainian authorities do not forget that Algeria has important interests with Russia… we do not understand why and we regret the absence from Algeria, which says it respects our sovereignty within our borders of 1991, of at least a humanitarian support like the ones shown to us by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates”. 

The Ukrainian position, expressed here in a diplomatic manner by Oleksander Kompaiicts, does not suffer the shadow of a doubt: Vlodimir Zelensky’s country does not favorably welcome the Algerian initiative. Therefore, the latter could only be bound to fail. Just as was the Arab mediation attempt led by the Arab League and in which Algeria had participated. 

Also, since June 2023, we haven’t heard about the Algerian mediation project in the Russia-Ukraine conflict anymore. The subject is not mentioned anymore in official communication.

The failure is here. Maybe definitely consummated. It was otherwise predictable after the Arab initiative had failed. Haven’t the diplomatic advisers of President Tebboune accurately evaluated the difficulties in succeeding in a mediation amid a war in a conflict where many parties are involved, other than the direct belligerents? 

Abdelmadjid Tebboune was convinced that the Algerian mediation initiative will succeed. “We did it multiple times given the weight of Algerian diplomacy. There were always results. Algeria never intervenes in a mediation if the country is not certain of the result”, he said during an interview with Al Jazeera in March 2023.

Constant failure from Kyiv to Niamey

With the mediation project in the Russia-Ukraine conflict still suffering, not to say dead and buried, Algeria took the same approach to the crisis in Niger. As an advocate for a political solution, unlike the ECOWAS countries which, for a while, have considered a military intervention in order to dislodge the military putschists and reinstate deposed president Mohamed Bazoum in his office, Algeria offered a crisis exit plan with a transition of 6 months.

Algerian diplomacy, which canvassed the conflict parties in Niger as well as a number of countries in the region, had believed that it succeeded this time in securing the essentials: the acceptance of its mediation and the discussion of its crisis exit plan. Ahmed Attaf’s department published a statement in which he announced that the Algerian proposition had been accepted. The following day, the Nigerien authorities published a statement to the contrary. 

Niger’s transition government, put in place by the military officers who led the July 26, 2023 putsch, underlined in a public statement that “if a meeting had taken place between the diplomatic chiefs of the two countries on the sidelines of the 78th UN General Assembly, no official decision had been taken regarding the Algerian mediation initiative”. 

For Niamey, “the length of the transition period should be the result of the conclusions of an Inclusive National Forum”. The 6 months transition that Algeria had proposed thus seems to have been rejected. 

The Algerian minister of Foreign Affairs was supposed to fly to Niamey to begin discussions with Nigerien sides about the Algerian proposition. He hasn’t visited the country yet, having certainly reviewed his plans following the Nigerien government denied having accepted the Algerian mediation. 

The firstfruits of the failure of the mediation are here. Another failure to add to the diplomatic record of President Tebboune. 

Palestine: The already forgotten Declaration of Algiers

On October 13, 2022, no less than 14 Palestinian factions, including Fatah and Hamas, were meeting in Algiers, after an Algerian initiative, and signed a declaration baptized “The Declaration of Algiers” in which they committed themselves to achieving the inter-Palestinian reconciliation and, more importantly, to hold presidential and legislative elections “in one year”. The year has passed and no electoral calendar has been put in place. 

On returning to the electoral process, interrupted in 2006 following the contested Hamas victory in the legislative elections, the Algiers conference to unite the Palestinian factions is, therefore, far from being a success. Clearly, and for the Palestinian leaders gathered in Algiers, the promise of a reconciliation between different factions, including Hamas and Fatah, only involves those who believed in it. 

If Algeria had the merit of gathering these factions in Algiers, it did not have the means to compel them to respect their commitments. The Arab monitoring committee which was put in place proved to be inefficient. The Algiers conference to unite the Palestinian factions is unfulfilled, in that its resolutions have remained ink on paper. 

Starting the roadmap of the “Declaration of Algiers” might never be achieved. The 32nd Arab League summit in May 2023 in Djeddah did not really follow through on it.