Algeria Cancels Arms Deal with Russia, Fails Polisario

Ibrahim Ghali, Leader of the Polisario Front-proclaimed SADR

Algeria has once again canceled a major arms deal with Russia due to “the decline in oil prices,” according to Moroccan newspaper Al Massae.Al Massae reports that the Russian arms deal had intended to serve the Polisario Front interests, as the separatist group was eager to receive military equipment and weapons from Algeria to boost its military capacity.

According to the newspaper, the decline in oil prices has had a significant impact on the budget allocated for armaments, including funds allocated for the Polisario.

The decline in oil prices stymied plans for the separatists’ leader, Ibrahim Ghali, who intended to build a headquarters in the region’s buffer zone of the region and later relocate some of the Tindouf camps in the region.

Since taking office as the head of the Polisario Front’s alleged Sahrawi Arab  Democratic Republic (SADR), Ghali started planning to shift the group’s headquarters.. However, Ghali’s plan did not please some members of the separatist group. According to Al Massae, members of the Polisario considers Ghali’s project a waste of public money.

Moroccan news outlet Le360, reported that Algeria canceled a similar deal with Russia in December due to the decline in oil prices. Morocco’s eastern neighbor was expected to receive an important shipment of arms, many of which would have been subsequently delivered to the separatist group.

One source with Le360 said that the separatist group rejected Algeria’s reasons for canceling the Russian arms deal.  Certain “hawks” within the Polisario alleged that Algeria had refused to renew its arms supplies with the separatist group due to the pressure from French President Emmanuel Macron during his recent visit to Algeria.

The Polisario accused Macron of intervening with Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to cancel the arms contract with the Polisario.

On December 6, 2017, Macron visited Algeria in order to discuss the Western Sahara issue. On the eve of his visit, Macron told the Algerian daily El Khabar that he was in favor of opening up a “dialogue between Morocco and Algeria around the Sahara issue,” as “the resolution of this crisis represents a major challenge for the integration of the Arab Maghreb.”