Former Algeria official: US, Qatar 'interfering' in presidential polls

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Halim bin Atallah accuses the United States and Qatar of trying to intervene in Algeria's internal affairs following recent visits by Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

According to former minister and diplomat Halim bin Atallah, the timing of the visit by Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and US Secretary of State John Kerry are “uncharacteristic of Algerian diplomatic tradition,” which traditionally does not entail visits arranged at certain periods, including during election campaigns.

Atallah told El-Khabar: “The two visits, whatever their justifications, are because [Kerry and Tamim] came to inquire about the presidential [election].”

Atallah, the former delegate minister for the foreign minister and in charge of the diaspora, said that the timing of the two visits “is not acceptable according to diplomatic norms,” adding that, “as far as I know, there are no precedents for these visits in the history of diplomatic relations between the countries.”

El-Khabar interviewed Atallah about his reading of the two visits and their timings. He said, “Traditionally, Algerian authorities are expected to refuse visits at this time because the timing is not suitable, either directly or indirectly.”

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Algeria’s former ambassador to the European Union in Brussels for seven years said, “By virtue of my practice for many years, there was a tradition, known by all ambassadors, consuls and diplomats, preventing them from approving visit requests to Algeria during specific periods, including during election campaigns. … The worst that can be deduced from this is that any analysis may lead you to the conclusion that the two visits were attempts to interfere in Algeria’s internal affairs.”

What prompted Algeria to receive these guests, who are from countries that have a hand in the Arab world's affairs at this time? Atallah said, “It is a sign of weakness by the [Algerian] authorities toward foreign pressure. Otherwise, the visits would have been declined.” He noted, “The statement by the Algerian Foreign Ministry concerning the agenda of Kerry’s visit, for example, contained nothing extraordinary or unusual that could not have been postponed. So, why didn’t they wait for the [new] conditions after the elections to talk about the fight against terrorism and the strategic dialogue? … I am sure that the two visits, even if they happened at the same time by coincidence, are closely associated with the elections. And their goal is to know Algeria from the inside after the election [set to take place] on the 17th of this month [April]. … The authorities have unfortunately taken a defensive behavior regarding the circumstances prevailing in Algeria.”

Atallah said, “To what extent do these visits affect the course and the outcome of the elections? … It would have been better if the visits were postponed because they represent a direct interference in the internal affairs of our country and are evidence of the fragility of the authorities.”

He called Algerian authorities approving the visits as “awaiting complicity by these two countries and a sacrifice of the principle of non-interference in internal affairs.” He called the visits “an invitation to foreign powers to declare who they support for the expected fourth term.”

Regarding the Qatari visit, he said, “It’s the new player in the international arena and its role is to produce tensions, even in our neighborhood.” Regarding Kerry’s visit, he said, “The Americans imposed their agenda for the visit. There is no justification for the praise done by the campaign manager of the presidential candidate because, in all cases, Algeria in 2014 is very far from responding to the standards imposed by the Americans regarding democracy and good governance.”

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Found in: qatar, john kerry, elections, diplomacy, algerian elections
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