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08ALGIERS1123 2008-10-16 13:11:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Algiers
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1. (C) During an October 8 introductory meeting with the
Ambassador, Minister Delegate for Maghreb and African Affairs
Abdelkader Messahel (U/S equivalent) asserted that Algeria's
position on Western Sahara has not changed since 1965 and
that Algeria continued to believe that the principle of
self-determination must be applied to give the Sahrawis the
right to choose their future freely. He said Morocco's view
on Western Sahara has changed several times and regretted
that at present the Moroccans do not view the Sahrawis as
equal partners, a position that Algeria does not accept.
"Even if we are the last country in the world to hold this
position, we will hold fast," he added. The Ambassador told
Messahel that Western Sahara was discussed at length during
the Secretary's visit in September and underscored her
message that it was time to make serious efforts toward
achieving a mutually agreeable resolution of the conflict.

2. (C) Messahel acknowledged U.S. interest in seeing
improvements in Algeria's bilateral relationship with
Morocco, particularly the opening of the border, and urged
the U.S. to push Morocco to make concessions. Messahel
assured the Ambassador that Algeria did not oppose
cooperation with Morocco, but progress on Maghreb integration
was contingent on finding a solution to Western Sahara. That
said, Messahel noted meetings with Morocco on integration and
bilateral cooperation on issues like counter-terrorism will
continue. The Ambassador said that the U.S. has made several
efforts to support the UN process and reminded Messahel that
all parties involved in the negotiations need to make an
effort to reach an agreement, which means that neither side
will likely receive its first-choice option.

3. (C) COMMENT: Messahel is the MFA's hard-core keeper of
the flame on Western Sahara. His comments repeated Algeria's
longstanding position that the right of self-determination
should be the guiding principle for a resolution on Western
Sahara. His remark linking improved bilateral relations with
Morocco to progress on Western Sahara also echoes what we
heard from President Bouteflika during the Secretary's recent