Algeria-France crisis: Macron takes a step towards rapprochement with Algiers

The French president is trying to reach out to Algeria in an attempt to resolve the current diplomatic crisis between the two countries

PHOTO/AFP  -   the president of france emmanuel macron

Algeria and France are in the midst of a diplomatic conflict. In this context, it is not the first time that both countries have faced a critical climate for a reason that has been recurring since Algeria's independence: the colonial past and the role the French played in their former colony. 

This time, French President Emmanuel Macron's controversial statements to a French newspaper that the history defended by Algeria had been "rewritten" and was based on "a discourse of hatred towards France" provoked anger in Algeria, which was quick to defend itself, responding that "nothing and no one can absolve the colonial powers of their crimes".

Russian Foreign Ministry/Handout via REUTERS - Algeria's Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum

Immediately afterwards, Algeria recalled its ambassador for consultations and banned French aircraft from flying over its airspace. This decision seems to have taken France by surprise after the armed forces spokesman, Pascal Ianni, declared that when the flight plan for two planes had been discussed, "we learned that the Algerians had stopped flights over their territory by French military aircraft". Even so, they stressed that this decision would not affect "operations or intelligence missions" that France is carrying out in the Sahel region.

This decision came about because of the French planes that were allegedly involved in operations "Barkhane" and "Takuba", a series of missions aimed at fighting terrorist groups threatening to destabilise the security of the five Sahel states of Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad. 

AFP/ MICHELE CATTANI - French Army soldiers in the Sahel guard a rural area during Operation Bourgou IV in northern Burkina Faso, along the border with Mali and Niger.

In response to these decisions and in an attempt at reconciliation, the French president said that he had "great respect for the Algerian people and I have really established friendly relations with President Tebboune (...) we must continue to work with Algeria, and we hope that the current diplomatic tensions will soon ease", he added: "We must continue to examine our history with Algeria with humility and respect".

However, there has been no reaction from Algeria. The only statements issued by Algeria came last Saturday from the Algerian presidency in a communiqué informing of the new reality between Paris and Algiers. It explained the reasons why its ambassador was recalled for consultations, the first step towards ending diplomatic relations, and accused Macron of "interfering in its internal affairs" and described his statements as "irresponsible".

AP/RAFAEL YAGHOBZADEH - Demonstrators with Algerian national flags organise a protest in the Place de la République in Paris.

The diplomatic crisis between France and Algeria may create a series of scenarios that are not favourable for the region. The terrorist threat in the Sahel continues and France currently has between 5,500 and 5,700 troops in the five Saharan states. Despite assurances that military operations would continue, this tension may affect military cooperation, at a time when Mali is reportedly employing Russian mercenaries to combat the jihadist threat.

In addition, Algeria and Morocco are currently going through a new critical episode in diplomatic terms. In this regard, Algeria decided to unilaterally break off relations with the Alawi kingdom after accusing Morocco of "hostile actions" including "cooperation with the MPAK and Rashad terrorist organisations in Algeria". 

AFP/MARCO LONGARI - In this file photo taken on July 6, 2019, a group of Fulani militiamen stand ready with their weapons, at an informal demobilisation camp in Sevare run by Sekou Bolly, a local Fulani businessman whose aim is to steer young Fulani men away from jihadist morse

In this context, North Africa is not going through its best diplomatic moment, in addition to serious internal conflicts. Tunisia and Libya continue to face major internal crises, the former because it does not even have an interim government and the latter because it is still recovering from a civil war that is not over. Recent developments, in addition to the European Court ruling in favour of the Polisario and announcing the severance of trade relations with Morocco in the agricultural and fisheries sectors, worsen a tense climate that is characterised by instability and thus regional insecurity.