May 9, 2010
By Ariel Farrar-Wellman
May 9, 2010
Algerian leaders have publicly backed Iran’s ongoing nuclear program on numerous occasions. In November of 2008, Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia voiced Algeria’s support for Iran’s right to “peaceful nuclear technology.” Iran has reciprocated Algeria’s diplomatic overtures by offering in August 2007 to provide Algeria with nuclear expertise. In July 2007, Iran hosted a number of representatives from the Non-Aligned Movement, including Algeria, to take a tour of Iran’s uranium conversion facilities at Esfahan. To date, however, Algeria has yet to formally accept Iranian offers; Algiers has instead signed bilateral civilian nuclear agreements with other countries, including Russia and the U.S in 2007.
Bilateral economic cooperation between Algeria and Iran has increased since a resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries in September 2000. During a 2007 visit to Algeria, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated that “Iran is determined to remove all obstacles” to developing economic ties between Iran and Algeria. Over 2008, bilateral trade between Algeria and Iran doubled from $25 million in 2007 to $50 million. In addition to bilateral trade in commercial good, Iran and Algeria have mutually invested in one another’s energy, industrial, banking, and agricultural industries. In July 2008, Iran and Algeria announced plans to build a joint cement plant in Algeria worth nearly $300 million, thus greatly increasing their industrial cooperation. In February 2009, Iranian Economic and Finance Minister Seyyed Shamsuddin Hosseini said the two countries enjoyed extensive political relations but that banking cooperation would help further develop Iranian-Algerian economic relations. In April 2009, Iran, Algeria, and Eritrea agreed to expand their bilateral cooperation and encourage mutual investment.
In the context of energy cooperation, Iran and Algeria are both members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and hold the world’s second- and sixth-largest natural gas reserves, respectively. According to the Iranian Ambassador to Algeria Hossein Abdi Abyaneh in August 2008, “expert delegations from countries with gas reserves such as Iran, Algeria, Russia, Qatar, Nigeria and Eqypt have discussed the issue of forming a gas OPEC.” In June 2009, Iranian Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari lauded Iranian-Algerian cooperation on reducing combined oil output by 4.2 million barrels per day in order to combat low oil prices.
Algeria severed diplomatic ties with Iran 1993, after accusing the Islamic Republic of supporting the Algerian opposition group, the Islamic Salvation Front. Although Iran denied the charges, the two countries did not resume official relations until September 2000. After resuming relations, economic and diplomatic ties quickly increased through multilateral and bilateral cooperation agreements and high-level state visits. In 2004, after a meeting with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, then Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said military and defense cooperation had increased as a result of improving economic, political, and cultural relations between the two countries. The following year, after meeting with the Algerian Army’s Chief of Staff, Major General Ahmad Qayed Salih, Minister Shamkhani reiterated that Iran’s defense capabilities would allow for military and technical cooperation between Iran and Algeria. During a visit to Algeria in August 2007, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran hoped to further strengthen relations between the two countries, and both countries stressed a commitment to completing twenty-two separate cooperation agreements between their two countries.
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika visited Tehran in 2008 to discuss the expansion of relations among Islamic states with his Iranian counterpart. President Ahmadinejad stated that “cooperation among Islamic nations for resolving regional and international problems will deepen relations among regional countries.” Ahmadinejad said that Iran and Algeria share fundamental stances on most regional and international issues. Bouteflika agreed that “the Islamic states should make every effort to resolve regional and global problems and establish peace and stability in the Islamic world.”
In June 2009, the Iranian government passed legislation to expand cooperation on customs with Iran. In June 2009, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani highlighted what he described as the success of the combination of democracy and Islamic values in the Iranian and Algerian political systems, saying that “today we see a sort of awareness in the world of Islam, Algerians’ combat for gaining their independence and Iranians’ Islamic Revolution were on the same track. At the same June 2009 meeting, Larijani spoke of the need for Iran and Algeria to work together to solve problems in other Muslim countries.
In December 2009, Algerian and Iranian delegations debated a draft action plan for cooperation in 2010 during a meeting in Algiers. The committee, co-chaired by Algerian Deputy Minister of the Maghreb and African Affairs Abdelkader Messahel and Iranian Minister of Housing and Urban Development Ali Nikzad, outlined 19 areas of economic cooperation between the two nations, including housing, urbanization, water resources, industry, and transportation. This meeting follows the first session of the Algerian-Iranian committee, held in Tehran in 2008, in which the two countries specified 16 joint projects in various fields including, customs, trade laws, and air transport.
In January 2010, President Ahmadinejad extolled the close relationship between Tehran and Algiers during a meeting with the new Algerian Ambassador to Iran, Abdelkrim Belarbi, saying “the brotherly ties between Iran and Algeria have created a great potential for the officials of the two countries to expand cooperation in different areas.” Ahmadinejad also indicated that the membership of Iran in the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of the Islamic Conference provided the opportunity for Iran and Algeria to cooperate in furthering the interests of the Islamic world.
In late March 2010, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika met with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in Algiers to discuss Iranian-Algerian bilateral relations, as well as political issues in Africa, Central Asia, and the Palestinian Territories. The Iranian official announced the impending formation of an Iran-Algeria Joint Commission and described the relationship between the two nations as both “friendly and strategic.” Minister Mottaki, acting in Iran’s role as head of the G15, extended an invitation to Algeria for the May 2010 G15 summit in Tehran.
The G15, or the Group of 15, is an informal body grew out of the Non-Aligned Movement and consists of 18 developing nations in the Americas, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The G15 focuses on issues of trade and economic development. Their members include Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe. Iran occupied the G15’s leadership position since 2006.
In April 2010, Algeria’s Minister of Religious Affairs Bouabdellah Ghlamallah discussed the cultural ramifications of diplomatic relations with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Meeting in Tehran, Ahmadinejad asserted that, “The two nations and governments of Iran and Algeria have a significant and common responsibility in this new era.” Ahmadinejad articulated that this task was two-fold: to clarify Iran and Algeria’s unified cultural values and to actively participate in “forming the new world.” Algerian Minister Ghlamallah praised President Ahmadinejad as a leader and voiced Algerian support for Iran’s political positions.