Algeria has welcomed conciliatory comments from the office of French President Emmanuel Macron expressing regret over a row sparked by his criticism of the former French colony.
Relations between Paris and Algiers hit a new low last month after President Macron accused Algeria’s ruling system of rewriting history and fomenting anti-French hatred, prompting Algeria to withdrew its ambassador.
But Paris appears to have waved an olive branch. A senior official from Macron’s office said on Tuesday that the president had “the greatest respect for the Algerian nation and its history and for Algeria’s sovereignty”.
He also said Macron “regrets the controversies and misunderstandings caused by the reported remarks”, suggesting Paris is seeking to calm relations with its former colony.
It appears to have borne fruit.
The statement from Macron’s office “contained reasonable ideas that respect Algeria, its history, past and present, and respect Algeria’s sovereignty,” Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra told Algerian diplomats on Wednesday.
The exchange comes as France prepares for a high-level summit Friday on Algeria’s war-torn neighbour Libya, aimed at ensuring crucial elections go ahead in December.
Macron had invited President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to the conference. Tebboune will not attend but Lamamra confirmed that Algerian officials would be present.
Franco-Algeria relations have often been strained since Algeria gained independence from France in 1962 after a six-year war.
But a diplomatic crisis erupted in October after Macron questioned whether Algeria had existed as a nation before the French invasion in the 1800s.
He also accused Algeria’s “politico-military system” of rewriting the country’s colonial history based on a “hatred of France”.
Coming shortly after Paris’s decision to sharply reduce the number of visas it grants to citizens of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, Algiers withdrew its ambassador and banned French military planes from its airspace.
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Since his election in 2017, Emmanuel Macron has nonetheless gone further than his predecessors in acknowledging French abuses during the 130-year occupation.
Macron described the 17 October 1961 massacre of Algerian protestors in Paris as an ‘unforgiveable’ crime.
He also asked Harkis who fought along France during the war in Algeria for forgiveness and promised reparations.