President Emmanuel Macron said his “wish is for a calming down” between France and Algeria after relations soured amid a row over visas and the French leader’s remarks about the African nation’s post-independence leadership.
Speaking on Tuesday, Macron attempted to ease tensions that had emerged in recent days, with Algeria recalling its ambassador from Paris and barring all French military planes from entering its airspace, denying France a key transport route for its West African operations.
“My wish is for a calming down because I think it’s better to talk and to make progress,” the French president said in an interview, adding that he believes relations are “truly cordial” between his administration and Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
The row between the two sides was sparked after Paris announced that it will cut visas granted to Algerians in half, while Macron criticized the African country’s post-independence leadership, claiming the “political-military system” has “totally rewritten” its history. The critical remark from the French president came when he spoke to descendants of the Algerian war of independence, arguing that the history bestowed on citizens by the nation’s administration is “not based on truths” and pushes a “discourse of hatred towards France.”
Algeria’s president condemned the actions as unnecessary and unacceptable “interference” in the nation’s domestic affairs. Macron has been more vocal than his predecessors about France’s colonial history in Algeria, recently admitting to the “injuries” that have stemmed from that time period, pledging to “recognise all of these memories” and work to tackle inevitable “tensions.”
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The Algerian government has not yet said whether it will redeploy its ambassador to Paris or remove the restrictions on its airspace. France uses the air route over Algeria to move troops and supplies to the Sahel region, where it has engaged in Operation Barkhane, tackling Islamist insurgents in the area, alongside Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.
The visa reduction applied to people from Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, former French colonies, with government spokesperson Gabriel Attal stating it was necessary as those nations have refused to take back enough migrants kicked out of France. While Attal admitted France’s move is “a drastic decision and unprecedented,” he said that it followed attempts to engage in dialogue, and threats, and when those were rejected, Paris was forced to begin “carrying out those threats” in an attempt to induce “more cooperation.”
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