Algerian president demands ‘total respect’ from France

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune at a press conference in Algiers on December 13, 2019. (Photo by Billal Bensalem/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Sunday demanded France’s “total respect”, following a row over visas and critical comments from Paris about the North African country.

Last weekend, Algeria recalled its ambassador from Paris and banned French military planes from its airspace, which France regularly uses to reach its forces battling jihadists in the Sahel region to the south.

The moves came after a bitter row over visas, followed by media reports that French President Emmanuel Macron had told descendants of Algeria’s 1954-1962 war of independence that Algeria was ruled by a “political-military system” that had “totally re-written” its history.

The office of Algeria’s president responded by saying the comments, which have not been denied, were an “interference” in the country’s internal affairs.

On Sunday, Tebboune spoke publicly for the first time about the row, telling local media outlets the return of the Algerian ambassador to France was “conditional on total respect for the Algerian state”.

“We forget that it (Algeria) was once a French colony… History should not be falsified,” he added. “We can’t act like nothing happened.”

Macron’s remarks last week to French daily Le Monde were widely picked up by Algerian media, which slammed them as “vitriolic”.

The French president reportedly criticized what he called the “official history” which Algeria had written for itself, saying it was “not based on truths”.

He was quoted as pondering: “Was there an Algerian nation before French colonization? That’s the question.”

And he also described Tebboune as being “trapped in a system which is very tough”.

Relations between the two countries have often been strained but never have they hit the lows of recent days.