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Macron wraps up visit to Algeria

August 28, 2022

The French and Algerian presidents Saturday resolved to mend relations after a series of disputes. While their agreements were thin on specifics, the trip concluded on cordial terms. Turkey, however, was less pleased.

French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune shake hands during a signing ceremony at Algiers airport
French President Emmanuel Macron and Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune appeared quite chummy at the end of the three day visit by the French PresidentImage: Ludovic Marin/AP/picture alliance

French President Emmanuel Macron and his Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune took steps towards improving relations Saturday after a series of disputes between their two countries about migration and the legacy of colonialism at the conclusion of Macron's three-day visit to the north African nation.

While thin on specifics, the agreements reached by the two leaders span energy, security and the politics of history.

France hopes the agreements will smooth over ties with Africa's largest country, a significant oil and gas supplier to Europe in addition to being an active regional military power.

What did the leaders say?

At the final meeting on Saturday, the two presidents appeared friendly with one another as they embraced and held hands.

Macron said, "We had moving moments these last few days that allowed us to build the foundation of what is to come." But he added, "A lot remains to be done."

Macron promised greater flexibility on the issuance of visas and economic cooperation. He said an additional 8,000 students would be given visas to study in France, up from the current 30,000.

Tebboune praised "a very successful visit," and Macron personally for his efforts regarding rapprochement between the two sides.

What do we know about the agreements?

Macron's office released a copy of the accords the two sides agreed to, though it lacked concrete items.

France stopped short of offering an apology for colonial era brutality in the official documents.

Some of the items in the joint accords included agreements regarding energy research, specifically on gas and hydrogen, medical research, cooperation in sports, and the establishment of a joint commission to review Algeria's colonial history as well as the period of the eight-year war of independence.

Turkey upset about some of Macron's remarks

Remarks made by Macron during his visit about foreign powers spreading anti-French propaganda in Africa caused a stir. 

Macron on Friday warned young Algerians and Africans against believe everything they read online portraying France as an "enemy."

He said many posts were influenced either by Islamists or countries like Turkey, Russia and China with an agenda of their own.

"Let's be clear: many activists of political Islam have an enemy — France. Many networks that pushed covertly, whether by Turkey, whether by Russia, whether by China, have an enemy — France." Macron went on to denounce the "influence, neo-colonial and imperalist" ambitions of these countries in Africa in the modern era. 

Turkey took issue with the French leader's "extremely unfortunate" remarks. 

"It is unacceptable that... Macron, who has difficulties in confronting his colonial past in Africa, especially Algeria, tries to get rid of his colonial past by accusing other countries, including our country," Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic said on Saturday.

The Ottoman Empire, out of the ashes of which modern-day Turkey was formed, was the prior colonial power in most of modern-day Algeria. It lost the territory in battle against the French in 1830.

What else did Macron do on his visit to Algeria?

In Oran, Macron visited Disco Maghreb, an iconic record store and recording label for artists performing traditional Rai music.

Franco-Algerian artist DJ Snake helped put Disco Maghreb on the cultural map along with Rai rhythms. Macron posted a TikTok video message for the DJ from the store.

Macron also visited breakdancers hoping to make their debut at the 2024 Paris Olympics, the first time that breakdancing will be part of the competition.

Macron went for a walk with many trying to shake his hand and take pictures on the street.

On Friday night, Macron dined with Kamel Daoud and other Oran personalities.

ar/msh (AFP, AP)