French President Emmanuel Macron began a three-day visit to Algeria on Thursday, where he vowed to open a new chapter the bilateral relations between two countries that share a painful past.
France held control over Algeria during 130 years of colonial rule. But the last eight years were marked by a devastating independence struggle that ended in 1962.
"We have a complex, painful common past. And it has at times prevented us from looking at the future," Macron said. "We did not choose this past, we inherited it. It's a block, we have to look at it and recognize it, but we have a responsibility, it's to build our own future for ourselves and our children."
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune welcomed what he called the "encouraging results" of Macron's visit.
Tebboune said there was a "positive dynamic" in their relationship, adding that there were "promising prospects for improving the special partnership that binds us."
The French president announced the establishment of a joint committee with historians from both Algeria and France to study the archives on the colonial period.
French historians have said that half a million civilians and combatants died during the war for independence, 400,000 of them Algerian. But Algerian authorities have maintained that roughly 1.5 million were killed.
A turbulent relationship
Macron is the first French president to be born after Algerian independence. In 2017, he referred to French actions during the 1954-62 war as a "crime against humanity." The remarks were politically controversial in France, but well received in Algeria.
But last year, Macron angered Algiers in a newspaper interview in which he asked whether Algeria had really existed as a state prior to French colonization. He also accused past Algerian governments of fomenting "hatred towards France" in the decades that followed independence.
Macron's office said he "regretted" the misunderstandings caused by his comments and ultimately, normal diplomatic relations and overflights to French army bases in sub-Saharan Africa resumed.
Region's stability in focus
Both countries have since tried to strike a more cordial tone. Algerian media said Macron's visit showed a mutual desire for relations built around "a new vision based on equal treatment and balance of interests."
Tebboune said he and Macron had discussed regional security issues, such as stability in neighboring Libya, terror threats in the Sahel region and the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
Additionally, the two leaders are expected to discuss boosting Algerian gas deliveries to Europe, with hopes to fill the shortfall caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February.
Macro "has chosen to direct this visit towards the future, [focusing on] start-ups, innovation, youth, new sectors," his office said.
jcg/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)