France's Macron wants 'calming down' in row with Algeria

French President Emmanuel Macron said he hoped that tensions with Algeria could ease. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday (Oct 5) he hoped that tensions with Algeria could ease after a row over visas and critical comments by Paris towards Algiers.

"My wish is for a calming down because I think it's better to talk and to make progress," Macron told the France Inter broadcaster, adding that his relations with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune were "truly cordial".

Algeria, which was formerly colonised by France, over the weekend recalled its ambassador from Paris and banned French military planes from its airspace, which France regularly uses to reach its forces battling Islamist militants in the Sahel region.

That came after a bitter row over visas, followed by media reports that Macron had told descendants of Algeria's war of independence that the North African country was ruled by a "political-military system" that had "totally re-written" its history.

Algeria said the reported remarks were an "interference" in its internal affairs.

Algiers was also angered last week after France said it would sharply reduce the number of visas it grants to citizens of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

Paris said the decision had been made necessary by the former colonies' failure to do enough to allow illegal migrants in France to be returned.

The latest row came two weeks after Macron apologised on behalf of his country for abandoning Algerians who fought alongside France in their country's war of independence, which was waged on both sides with extreme brutality, including widespread torture.

During his presidency, Macron has taken steps to defuse lingering tensions with Algeria linked to their colonial history, and face up to France's methods to retain control of its north African colony, which won independence in 1962.

In 2018, he admitted that France had created a "system" that facilitated torture during the war and acknowledged that French mathematician Maurice Audin, a Communist pro-independence activist, was murdered in Algiers.

In July last year, he tasked French historian Benjamin Stora with assessing how France has dealt with its colonial legacy in Algeria.

"We've said things that are not easy to hear. I have not sugarcoated our own history," Macron told France Inter.

More than 60 years since France started its nuclear tests in Algeria, their legacy also continues to poison relations between the North African nation and its former colonial ruler.

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