Spain confident Algeria will respect gas supply contracts despite diplomatic spat

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MADRID (Reuters) -Spain's Energy Minister Teresa Ribera said on Thursday she is confident Algerian state-owned gas company Sonatrach will respect its commercial contracts to supply natural gas to Spanish utilities despite a diplomatic spat.

"We won't think (the contracts) could be broken in a unilateral manner by a decision from the Algerian government," Ribera said in an interview with Spanish radio station Onda Cero.

Algeria suspended a 20-year-old friendship treaty with Spain on Wednesday and banned imports from Spain in a row over Madrid's stance on Western Sahara.

Ribera acknowledged the spat comes at a delicate time as the gas supply contracts are currently the subject of price negotiations.

"I hope that these (commercial contracts) will continue to operate as now because otherwise it would be a different kind of problem to be solved through diplomatic relations and not through courts or arbitration," she said.

Algeria is a key gas supplier to Spain and Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has said in the past he would not break the supply contracts over the row.

Spain's shift towards Morocco's stance on Western Sahara ended a dispute between Madrid and Rabat last year involving both the disputed territory and migration.

(Reporting by Inti Landauro; editing by Emma Pinedo and Jason Neely)