France-Algeria: Emmanuel Macron seeks to repair damaged ties during three-day visit

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By Euronews  with AFP, Reuters
Emmanuel Macron lays a wreath at Bezons bridge near Paris, Oct. 16, 2021, the first French president to commemorate the brutal repression of an Oct 17, 1961 demonstration.
Emmanuel Macron lays a wreath at Bezons bridge near Paris, Oct. 16, 2021, the first French president to commemorate the brutal repression of an Oct 17, 1961 demonstration.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh, Pool   -  

Emmanuel Macron will begin a three-day official visit to Algeria on Thursday, aimed at turning the page on years of disputes and tension between the host country and France.

The French president wants to concentrate on "rebuilding" a relationship that remains marked by the weight of the past.

The visit of a large French delegation, including seven ministers, coincides with the 60th anniversary of the end of the war and the proclamation of Algeria's independence in 1962.

For France, better relations with its former colony are growing more important because an energy shortage due to Russia's war in Ukraine has raised demand for North African gas, and because of growing migration across the Mediterranean.

Algeria meanwhile wants to take advantage of high energy prices to secure big contracts and investment projects, as it has already done with Italy and Turkey.

However, Algerian gas is "really not the subject of the visit", the Elysée Palace told AFP.

Macron hopes his visit will end a diplomatic row and allow him to develop his relationship with young Algerians.

This is the second time Macron has visited Algeria as president, after a first visit in December 2017, at the very beginning of his first five-year term.

Relations between the two countries looked promising at the time with a young French president, born after 1962 and freed from the weight of history, who had described French colonisation as a "crime against humanity".

But they quickly turned sour, caught up in memories that remain difficult to reconcile after 132 years of colonisation, a bloody war and the departure of a million French people from Algeria in 1962.

Macron has recognised the responsibility of the French army in the death of the mathematician Maurice Audin or the nationalist lawyer Ali Boumendjel during the "Battle of Algiers" in 1957.

He denounced "inexcusable crimes" during the massacre of peaceful Algerian demonstrators in Paris on 17 October 1961.

But the apology expected by Algiers for colonisation never came, putting a limit on the extent of Macron's outreach and adding to misunderstandings and frustrations.

In October 2021, Algeria recalled its ambassador to Paris in protest after Macron reportedly referred to "a political-military system" in power in Algiers.

The French president has since made amends and the two countries' two leaders have decided to put the partnership between the two countries back on track.

Macron and his delegation are due to be greeted upon their arrival by Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Thursday afternoon.

The issue of visas granted by France will also be at the heart of the discussions, Emmanuel Macron having decided in 2021 to cut numbers in half in the face of Algiers' reluctance to take back Algerian nationals unwanted in France.

Other topics likely to be on the agenda include the situation in Mali, from which the French army has just withdrawn, and growing Russian influence in Africa.