Algeria has formally broken off diplomatic relations with neighbouring Morocco with the latter’s recent establishing ties with Israel as one of the reasons cited by Algeria’s foreign minister.

Another reason cited by Algiers is Morocco’s alleged use of Israeli-developed Pegasus spyware, something Morocco denies, and the hosting of Israel’s foreign minister, Yair Lapid.

Tuesday’s announcement follows a period of growing tension between the two North African countries involved in a decades-long feud, with their borders closed to each other, reports Times of Israel.

“Algeria has decided to break diplomatic relations with Morocco starting today,” Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra said at a news conference, in which he read a statement from the president.

The announcement comes nearly a week after President Abdelmadjid Tebboune told a meeting of Algeria’s High Security Council that “incessant hostile acts perpetrated by Morocco have meant the need for a revision in relations between the two countries and the intensification of security checks” at the western borders with Morocco, the official APS news agency reported.

Both countries are allies of western nations, and the move risked complicating diplomacy in the region. Both are important in the fight against terrorism in the nearby Sahel region.

Morocco’s foreign ministry said Wednesday in response that the country “regrets” the “completely unjustified” decision.

The move was “expected … in view of the logic of escalation observed in recent weeks,” it said. But “Morocco categorically rejects the fallacious, even absurd, pretexts underlying it.”

A normalization deal between Morocco and Israel in December also triggered fresh tensions between Rabat and Algiers because the US recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara as part of the accord.

On his first visit to Morocco since the countries normalized ties, Lapid said his concerns were based on fears Algeria was “getting close to Iran,” as well as “the campaign it waged against the admission of Israel as an observer member of the African Union.”

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