Algeria summoned Morocco's ambassador Wednesday in a tit-for-tat move over allegations it had expelled dozens of Syrian refugees that added a new twist to frequent rows between the North African neighbours.
The ambassador was informed of "the Algerian government's strong rejection of unfounded claims ... of the supposed expulsion of Syrian nationals to Moroccan territory," a foreign ministry spokesman said.
Amar Belani said the envoy was summoned to the ministry to hear Algeria's strong protest over "this new politically motivated provocation".
Algiers had pointed out that "it certainly doesn't need lessons when it comes to showing concern and care for Syrian nationals on its territory at the invitation of the Algerian people," he said.
On Tuesday, Morocco's foreign ministry summoned Algeria's ambassador to protest its alleged expulsion of Syrians across their common border.
Algeria said a day earlier that its border guards had merely refused to allow Syrian nationals deported by Morocco onto its territory.
Moroccan Deputy Foreign Minister Mbarka Bouaida told the Algerian envoy of the kingdom's "strong disapproval" of the expulsion of 77 Syrian nationals between Sunday and Tuesday.
Tensions between the North African neighbours, linked to their sharp differences over the Western Sahara, have escalated since Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika publicly criticised Morocco over its human rights record in the disputed territory, most of which it occupies.
Rabat recalled its ambassador to Algiers in protest at the October speech, and early the following month a Moroccan protester broke into the compound of Algeria's consulate in Casablanca and tore down the country's flag.
Morocco is highly sensitive to criticism of its policy towards migrants and asylum-seekers, with a rise in the number of sub-Saharan Africans entering the kingdom over the past 12 months -- mostly via Algeria -- in their quest to reach mainland Europe.