Algeria accused Morocco of using Algerian singers to support its claim to the disputed Western Sahara territory, which is the subject of independent movement by Algerian-backed Polisario rebels.
Earlier this month, Algerian media attacked singer Chab Ridah for declaring Western Sahara a Moroccan territory during a concert in Morocco, while they praised singer Fulla for refusing to sing in Laayoune, where the Polisario has established their government headquarters.
"I only recognize the Algerian flag," Fulla told Alarabiya.net, adding that she could not attend the Rawafed music festival, held in Laayoune, because it is the center of the Algerian-Moroccan Sahara conflict.
But the hit singer said she would be willing to hold a other concert in any “peaceful” Moroccan city.
Western Sahara is claimed by the northwest African countries of Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania. But since 1991, indigenous Polisario rebels have been controlling the area and running it under Moroccan authority.
The manager of Morocco's Rawafed music festival told Al Arabiya.net that the event has always been “peaceful”.
“If she (Fulla) doesn’t want to be our guest, then it’s her own loss,” said Ahajaboha Al Zubair, adding that Fulla missed an opportunity to represent her country at the festival.
“Algeria is a sister country of ours, the two nations have always been allies for many years,” the Moroccan executive said. “It’s unbelievable that we had singers from Mauritania and Spain, while our neighbors refused to be our guests,” she added.
An advisor to Morocco's Cultural Minister brushed aside the criticism.
“Algerian media has always been aggressive in dealing with Morocco," Muhammad Ben Lemo told AlArabiya.net. They always think that we have bad intentions.”
“[Algerian] Chab Ridah expressed his support for the Moroccan side. The Algerian public has no problem with Morocco. It's only the government and the Polisario who are creating the conflict," the official said.
Morocco annexed the desolate northwest African territory after the withdrawal of the former colonial power Spain and neighbor Mauritania in the 1970s, settling it with around 300,000 Moroccans in 1975.
A war with the Polisario Front – an indigenous Sahrawi rebel movement working for the separation of Western Sahara from Morocco – ended in 1991 with a U.N.-brokered ceasefire.
Morocco has proposed an autonomy referendum in Western Sahara that envisages giving local Sahrawis "control over their affairs through legislative, executive and judicial institutions" under Moroccan sovereignty and calls for "negotiations for a political solution acceptable to all parties."
The Polisario Front rejects the Moroccan proposal, saying it wants full independence.
The Polisario was formed in 1971 by a group of young Sahrawi students in the universities of Morocco. The movement formally revealed itself in May 1973, three years before Spain withdrew from Western Sahara and handed it back to Rabat.
Algeria embraced the group and provided it with camps from which the Polisario launched a guerilla war on Morocco.
The two sides held their first direct talks in seven years in June. While there was no breakthrough at the meeting, the two sides did agree to attend further U.N.-brokered negotiations.
(Adapted from the original Arabic by Yaman R. Zeitouni)