Algeria’s foreign policy has changed in pace with the development of domestic politics, and its orientation away from the more ideologically entrenched socialist direction followed in the first two or three decades after independence in 1962 to a more liberal policy.
From having close relations with the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc in the 1960s and 1970s, Algeria was more oriented towards Europe and the West, also as a result of economic realities: Foreign trade, with increasing oil and gas exports, occurred substantially with countries in the South -Europe, not least the old colonial power of France. However, Algeria was never closely linked to the Soviet Union. On the contrary, after the liberation, the country played a decisive role among the alliance-free states.
The country pursued an independent, active and radical foreign policy in the 1980s, which included support for liberation movements in many countries. Several received military training in Algeria, including groups fighting colonialism and apartheid in southern Africa. In particular, the country provided support to the liberation movement Polisario in Western Sahara and to the Palestinian PLO.
Algeria’s support for Polisario in Western Sahara has led to a tense relationship with Morocco at times, which has led to a border dispute over a mineral-rich area – which in 1963 led to a brief war between the two countries. Polisario has set up refugee camps in Tindouf, southwest of Algeria, and has run his political and military operations from Algerian territory.
Morocco broke diplomatic relations with Algeria when it recognized Polisario’s state formation in 1976, and the border was closed. Relations and the border were first reopened in 1988. The border with Morocco was closed again in 1994. When President Bouteflika, in 2002, as the first Algerian president, visited the refugee camp in southern Tindouf in the country, it was seen as a provocation in Morocco.
In 1983, Algeria signed a friendship agreement with Tunisia, which Mauritania signed later that year; Libya and Morocco also joined the cooperation, which aimed to create a union between the states of northern Africa (Maghreb). An agreement that in the name meant the formation of a union between the five countries, the Maghreb Union (UAM), was signed in February 1989.
In practice, the Union has not been active since 1994, when Morocco-Algeria relations deteriorated, after Morocco accused Algeria of undue interference in the Western Sahara peace process. Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak was among the Arab leaders who in the 1990s tried to contribute both to a solution to the Algerian conflict and to an improvement in Algeria’s relations with the West.
Algeria mainly had good relations with neighboring Libya under Muammar al-Gaddafi. The two countries had a similar position in the fight against colonialism, the support of the Palestinian liberation struggle and in the issue of Western Sahara. Algeria opposed the international military intervention and refrained from supporting the rebels during the civil war in Libya, also based on the country’s own experience with Islamists.
Algeria was criticized for welcoming members of the al-Gaddafi family, including his wife, two sons and daughter, who fled Libya during the civil war.
Algeria has historically a close relationship with France, but the political relationship after independence was long cool.
This is not least due to a lack of compensation for French property that was confiscated, while France banned imports of wine from Algeria. Then came Algeria’s nationalization of the oil industry, including French ownership interests, in 1971.
Under Chadli Benjedid ‘s rule, relations improved, so did relations with the United States, and President George HW Bush indirectly supported the coup in 1991. The outside world would not intervene in the conflict in Algeria in the 1990s, and the country became more isolated. President George W. Bush received President Bouteflika in the White House to secure Algeria’s support in the fight against terror.
France maintained close relations with Algerian authorities in the 1990s, despite the fact that French citizens were more affected by the terror than other foreign groups. Algerian terrorists also launched a bomb attack in Paris. In 1994, Algerian terrorists hijacked a plane on its way to Paris for the purpose of flying it into the Eiffel Tower ; an episode that should have inspired the attack at the World Trade Center in New York in 2001.
France has provided economic and political assistance to Algeria. President Bouteflika made an official visit to France in 2000; the first of an Algerian president since the liberation in 1962. President Jacques Chirac’s return visit in 2003 was similarly the first official visit by a French president to Algeria since the war. In 2012, President François Hollande took another step toward reconciliation after the Algerian war when he acknowledged that French colonialism had caused Algerian suffering. He did not, however, apologize to the Algerian authorities.
Cooperation between Algeria and France countries was intensified following the terrorist attacks against the United States in 2001 – in a joint effort to fight Algerian terrorist groups. Even before that, in 2000, the United States announced its willingness to establish military cooperation with Algeria, which expressed its support for the US attack on Afghanistan in 2001. Algeria in the Arab League against supporting the NATO-led attack on Libya in 2011 (Operation Odyssey Dawn), and was against the French-led operation in Mali in 2013 (Opération Serval), but allowed French fighter jets to cross Algerian territory to bomb al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) in Mali.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron visited Algeria in 2013; the first British prime minister to visit the country for an official visit. This came after the terror attack on the gas plant in In Amenas, and was linked to the fight against al-Qaeda.
In 2002, Algeria and the EU signed an association agreement to promote increased liberalization of trade between the two parties. The agreement came into force in 2005. The cooperation also covers political areas, not least the fight against terrorism. Negotiations on Algeria’s entry into the free trade zone started in 1996. Algeria is heavily dependent on the European market for its exports, and also wants access to the European labor market to alleviate high unemployment.
Algeria played a major role in the release of US hostages from Iran in 1981. In 2000, the country’s president engaged as a mediator in the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and the two countries signed a peace agreement in Alger.
Algeria has contributed forces to several international peace operations; first to Chad in 1982, implemented by the Organization of African Unity (OAU).
Relations between Algeria and Norway have been mostly economic, and some Norwegian companies have established themselves in the country. The most important connection is related to oil and gas, and in 2003 Statoil bought shares in the In Salah and In Amenas gas fields in the Sahara, at a cost of around NOK 15 billion. The gas plant In Amenas, owned and operated jointly by Statoil, BP and Sonatrach, was subjected in January 2013 to a terror attack in which five Norwegians were also killed. The petroleum-related connections were the main reason why Norway opened an embassy in Alger in 2007, moving from Tunisia.
In 2012, an Algerian naval vessel visited Norway; the first such ever. During the visit, meetings were held between Algerian and Norwegian officers. The visit took place according to Algerian wishes, to learn. The year before, for the first time, Algeria was able to purchase military equipment from Norway, when arms control systems were exported. Algeria had previously rejected requests for military equipment purchases.