Algeria recalls ambassador to France as tensions rise

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An Algerian flag flutters on the facade of the embassy in Paris in July 2021 (AFP/Joël SAGET)
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Algeria on Saturday rejected "inadmissible interference" in its affairs, hours after recalling its ambassador from Paris following comments by French President Emmanuel Macron reported by the French and Algerian media.

The statement, from the Algerian presidency, said it had withdrawn its ambassador following media reports of the French leader's comments, which had not been denied.

The French daily Le Monde reported that Macron had made critical remarks about the former French colony during a meeting Thursday with descendants of figures from the war of independence.

Macron reportedly said the country was ruled by a "political-military system" and described Algeria as having an "official history" which had been "totally re-written", the paper reported.

He said this history was "not based on truths" but "on a discourse of hatred towards France", according to Le Monde -- though he made clear that he was not referring to Algerian society as a whole but to the ruling elite.

The statement from the Algerian presidency said: "Following remarks that have not been denied, which several French sources have attributed by name to (Macron), Algeria expresses its categorical rejection of the inadmissible interference in its internal affairs."

Macron also spoke out on current Algerian politics. His counterpart Abdelmajid Tebboune was "trapped in a system which is very tough", the French president was quoted as saying.

"You can see that the Algerian system is tired, it has been weakened by the Hirak," he added, referring to the pro-democracy movement which forced Tebboune's predecessor Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power in 2019 after two decades at the helm.

- Visa tensions -

It is the second time that Algeria has recalled an ambassador from France.

Algiers also recalled its ambassador in May 2020 after French media broadcast a documentary about the Hirak.

Saturday's move comes amid tension over a French decision to sharply reduce the number of visas it grants to citizens of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

France said the decision, which it announced on Tuesday, had been made necessary by the former colonies' failure to do enough to allow illegal migrants to return.

The Algerian foreign ministry summoned French ambassador Francois Gouyette on Wednesday and handed him a "formal protest" note concerning the visa ruling.

It called the visa reduction an "unfortunate act" that caused "confusion and ambiguity as to its motivation and its scope".

Morocco's Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita has described the French move as "unjustified".

Tunisian President Kais Saied expressed disappointment with the decision in a telephone call with Macron Saturday, his office said, adding that the French leader had said it could be revised.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal told Europe 1 radio on Tuesday that the visa reduction decision was "unprecedented".

Paris made that choice, he said, because Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia "are refusing to take back nationals who we do not want or cannot keep in France".

The radio said Macron took the decision a month ago after failed diplomatic efforts with the three North African countries.

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