Algeria-France: New Year’s call thaws frozen diplomacy

Algeria-France: New Year’s call thaws frozen diplomacy

Relations between Algiers and Paris look set to improve slightly with the possibility of rows over nuclear testing being looked at a second time, according to recent newswire reports.

Talks between Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Abdelmadjid Tebboune have resumed after a steady cooling of French-Algerian relations since 2019, according to The Arab Weekly and agencies.

Bilateral relations and economic cooperation were among the topics discussed by the heads of state in a New Year’s phone call, with France’s colonial legacy remaining a source of friction between the administrations.

READ: Ashwin Telang: France can’t wipe the slate clean in Algeria

Unresolved issues, including historic French nuclear testing in the Sahara and the failure to return Emir Abdelkader’s sword to Algeria, have been a source of contention between the administrations in recent years.

In an interview with Qatar’s “Atheer” e-media outlet, Algerian foreign minister Ahmed Attaf stressed his administration’s determination for both official recognition and compensation for damages caused by French “nuclear crimes” during the colonial period.

France conducted 17 nuclear weapons tests in Algeria between 1960 and 1966, burying the radioactive waste in desert sites, the location of which remained undisclosed for decades.

Deteriorating Algerian-French relations came close to boiling point in 2023, following the fleeing of French-Algerian opposition activist Amira Bouraoui to France, via Tunisia. Bouraoui faces a 10-year prison sentence in Algeria for “illegal exit from the territory”.

READ: French Algerian activist sentenced to 10 years for ‘escape’

Both administrations face internal barriers to the normalization of relations. According to experts on Algerian-French relations, strong opposition from the military in Algiers and mounting pressure from the French far-right to reduce the flow of Algerian migration, are at odds with potential compromises regarding the nations’ unresolved issues.

Despite political pressures, Algiers and Paris’ common interests look to steer the administrations towards more constructive relations, signified by the resumption of preparations for Tebboune’s previously postponed Paris visit.

The Arab Weekly/Agencies


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