Algeria withdraws ambassador to France over Macron comments

French president said the north African country’s history has been ‘totally rewritten’

French President Emmanuel Macron. EPA
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Algeria has withdrawn its ambassador to Paris over “inadmissible interference” in its affairs, and banned Algeria French military planes from flying over its territory after France’s president reportedly said the country was ruled by a “political-military system”.

French newspaper Le Monde said President Emmanuel Macron made remarks about the former French colony during a meeting on Thursday with descendants of figures from the war of independence.

Mr Macron described Algeria as having an “official history” which had been “totally rewritten”, Le Monde reported.

A statement from the Algerian presidency said the country had withdrawn its ambassador following media reports of the French leader’s comments, which had not been denied.

Mr Macron reportedly said Algeria’s history was “not based on truths” but rather “on a discourse of hatred towards France”, reported Le Monde – although he said he was referring to the Algerian ruling elite rather than society as a whole.

The statement from the Algerian presidency said: “Following remarks that have not been denied, which several French sources have attributed by name to [Mr Macron], Algeria expresses its categorical rejection of the inadmissible interference in its internal affairs.”

Mr Macron also spoke about current Algerian politics. His counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune was “trapped in a system which is very tough”, the French president reportedly said.

“You can see that the Algerian system is tired, it has been weakened by the Hirak,” he said, referring to the pro-democracy movement which forced Mr Tebboune’s predecessor Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power in 2019 after two decades at the helm.

It is the second time that Algeria has recalled an ambassador from France. Algiers also recalled its ambassador in May 2020 after French media broadcast a documentary about the Hirak.

Reduction in visas

Saturday’s move comes amid tension over a French decision to sharply reduce the number of visas it grants to citizens of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. France said the decision, which it announced on Tuesday, had been made necessary by the former colonies’ failure to do enough to allow illegal migrants to return.

The Algerian foreign ministry summoned French ambassador Francois Gouyette on Wednesday and handed him a “formal protest” note. It called the visa reduction an “unfortunate act” that caused “confusion and ambiguity as to its motivation and its scope”.

Morocco's Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita has described the French move as “unjustified”.

Tunisian President Kais Saied expressed disappointment with the decision in a telephone call with Mr Macron on Saturday, his office said. The French leader had said it could be revised, he said.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal told Europe 1 radio on Tuesday that the visa reduction decision was “unprecedented”.

Paris made that choice, he said, because Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia “are refusing to take back nationals who we do not want or cannot keep in France”.

The radio station said Macron took the decision a month ago after failed diplomatic efforts with the three North African countries.

Updated: October 03, 2021, 5:20 PM