While Tunisia once advocated a diplomacy of neutrality, President Kaïs Saïed is increasingly isolated at the regional level. Algeria is reportedly planning to reduce its gas exports to Tunis. Explanations.
To increase the quantity of Algerian gas exported to Italy, which will lead to an increase in the right of way that Tunisia receives in raised LNG, Algeria is currently trying to reduce the quantities of gas sold to Tunisia.
Tunisia, dependent for 70% of its natural gas needs on Algeria, obtains Algerian gas in three ways: the right of way amounts to 5,25% of the volume of gas transported by the Transmed gas pipeline, crossing Tunisia for Italy. Moreover, Tunisia buys more than 30% of its gas consumption from Algeria under bilateral agreements. For these two energy purchases, nothing changes.
On the other hand, what could well change are the quantities of Algerian LNG purchased via separate contracts. The percentage of Algerian gas obtained by Tunisia should, however, be balanced with the increase in “fiscal gas”, estimated at 40%, and which will therefore lead to a 10% increase in the volumes of gas obtained by Tunisia.
However, the fact that Algiers is putting a brake on the supply of "contract gas" to Tunisia raises questions. Because beyond the increase or reduction of the gas obtained by Tunisia, the position between the two brotherly countries is quite unusual.
A rapprochement with Egypt that displeases Algiers?
One of the factors that facilitated the Algerian-Tunisian friendship, beyond the common history of the two countries, has often been their homogeneous diplomacy. Algeria and Tunisia almost always agree when it comes to Euro-Maghreb diplomacy or common support for the Palestinian cause, among other pan-Arabist issues.
Where the two neighboring countries diverge is in their relations with the Asian powers or Latin America. Where Algerian diplomacy is rather well established, this is not the case in Tunisia, and vice versa. But until very recently, Tunisia was only superficially involved in international geopolitical issues, maintaining a certain neutrality that Tunisian diplomacy could boast of.
This has changed a lot since the handover of full powers to President Kaïs Saïed. If the latter has done everything to maintain a good relationship with neighboring Algeria, the Tunisian president, in the company of his diplomat-in-chief Othmane Jerandi, takes positions that Algiers does not appreciate very much. It is, in the first place, the rapprochement at high speed with Egypt which is disconcerting. Due to a common hostility to the Islamist parties between Kais Saïed and Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, the two heads of state automatically come to an agreement on Arab political issues.
No later than last Friday, Kaïs Saïed received Egyptian Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouli. Saied said his counterpart al-Sisi had "saved Egypt from a very dangerous period". “President al-Sissi has shortened the deadlines and saved the Egyptian people a lot of time,” said Kaïs Saïed. Praise to the pogrom of opponents by al-Sissi, therefore. Opponents from the Muslim Brotherhood movement, like those relieved of power by Kaïs Saïed on July 25.
Algeria annoyed by Tunisia's diplomatic positions
Where Saïed and al-Sisi's common policy bothers Algiers is that it comes with a strange adherence by Tunisia to new diplomatic norms. In particular, Tunis has come much closer, in just a few months, to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
And even if Kaïs Saïed had personally intervened to prevent any lobbying for one side or another in the Libyan conflict on its territory, the Tunisian position in the Libyan file continues to cause a deterioration in relations between Tunis and Tripoli.
Before the United Nations Security Council, Tunisia took the initiative to present the motion which, after its approval, condemned the filling of the Renaissance Dam (GERD) by Ethiopia. A decision that Ethiopian Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen described as "a mistake that will taint Tunisia's mandate as a non-permanent member of the Security Council". A Tunisian position on the GERD that Egypt welcomes, of course. But, for Algeria, Ethiopia's ally in the G4, smiles are not in order.
Finally, the new Tunisian diplomatic line also had repercussions on the issue of the moment: the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Tunisia is one of the few North African countries to have condemned Russia at the UN. However, Russia maintained very cordial relations with Tunisia, but Moscow is also one of the first allies of Algeria.
If Tunis tries to smooth its unusually aggressive diplomacy by recurring bilateral visits with Algeria, it is not sure that Algeria is patient enough, while its immediate neighbor multiplies unilateral decisions. Especially since on the side of the Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ramtane Lamamra, the irritation is quite visible. In a visit by his counterpart Jerandi to Algiers in early May, Lamamra said: "We need to coordinate more the positions (of Algeria and Tunisia) in matters of common interest at the regional and international level".