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French president heads to Algeria to relaunch ties

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French president heads to Algeria to relaunch ties
French President Emmanuel Macron will visit Algeria from Thursday to Saturday this coming week. ERIC GAILLARD / POOL / AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron will visit former colony Algeria next week in a bid to improve strained ties between Paris and Algiers, the French presidency said Saturday.

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French-Algerian ties hit a low late last year after Macron reportedly questioned whether Algeria had existed as a nation before the French invasion and accused its "political-military system" of rewriting history and fomenting
"hatred towards France".

Algeria withdrew its ambassador in response, but the two sides appear to have mended ties since.

"This trip will contribute to deepening the bilateral relationship looking to the future... to reinforce Franco-Algerian cooperation in the face of regional challenges and to continue the work of addressing the past," the presidency said in a statement after a call between Macron and his opposite number Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

Macron is to visit Algeria from Thursday to Saturday next week.

The North African country won its independence from France following a gruelling eight-year war, which ended with the signing in March 1962 of the Evian Accords.

On July 5 of the same year, days after 99.72 percent voted for independence in a referendum, Algeria finally broke free from colonial rule -- but memories of the 132-year occupation continue to haunt its ties with France.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune

File photo of Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune from January 21, 2020. Tebboune has been President since December 2019. (Photo by RYAD KRAMDI / AFP)
 
Second trip

Algeria's war of independence left hundreds of thousands dead.

French historians say half a million civilians and combatants died -- 400,000 of them Algerian -- while the Algerian authorities insist 1.5 million were killed.

But six decades on, despite a string of gestures by Macron, France has ruled out any form of apology for the colonial period.

The French presidency announced Macron's visit as Algeria reels from devastating wildfires.

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Fires in northeastern Algeria -- now largely extinguished -- have killed 38 people, and ravaged more than 10 percent of a Unesco-listed biosphere reserve.

But firefighters were still battling blazes in the far west on Saturday, the Algerian civil defence said.

Macron offered France's land and air firefighting services to help, the presidency said.

This week's trip will be the French president's second to Algeria as head of state, after a brief one in December 2017 at the start of his first term when Abdelaziz Bouteflika was still president.

This visit is set to be longer, and take him to both the capital Algiers and second city Oran.

Tebboune, Bouteflika's former premier, won presidential elections in 2019, after mass protests forced his ageing predecessor to resign.

Earlier this year, he congratulated Macron on his re-election and invited him to come to Algeria.

 

 

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