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CAIRO (AFP, BLOOMBERG) – The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Arab League and Saudi Arabia have called for “dialogue” to resolve arguments between neighbouring Algeria and Morocco.

Algeria said on Tuesday (Aug 24) it had cut diplomatic relations with Morocco because of “hostile actions”, following months of resurgent tensions between the North African rivals.

The OIC “called for dialogue to resolve any possible differences”, a statement from the Jeddah-based organisation said on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia called on both nations “to prioritise dialogue” to help “achieve security and stability”, a foreign ministry statement read.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit urged “both countries to exercise restraint and to avoid further escalation” in a statement late Tuesday.

Libya, which borders Algeria, said it “deeply regrets” the deterioration of relations and asked for “restraint”, in a statement from the foreign ministry.

Tripoli also called for regional talks on the sidelines of the next Arab League meeting, scheduled for Sept 7 to 9 in Cairo.

Algiers has long been at odds with Rabat – particularly over the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony Morocco sees as an integral part of its territory, but where Algiers has supported the Polisario independence movement.

Their rivalry took a new twist last year when outgoing US president Donald Trump recognised Moroccan sovereignty over the territory – in exchange for Morocco normalising ties with Israel.

For Algeria, that amounted to Rabat “introducing a foreign military force into the Maghreb”, in the words of Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra on Tuesday.

Morocco’s foreign ministry bit back, saying Algiers’ move was “completely unjustified”.

The diplomatic rift risks escalating tensions in a region already mired in disarray.

Algeria’s neighbour, Tunisia, is in the midst of an internal political power fight while Libya is struggling for stability as part of a UN-backed push to end nearly a decade of fighting in the OPEC member.

The rift between two key allies of the West may also have implications for a broader fight against terrorism in the region.

And it could complicate a pact allowing Algeria to transport gas to Europe via Morocco in exchange for intake that mostly feeds Moroccan gas-fired power plants. The agreement is scheduled to expire in October.

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