France says it wants stronger ties with Algeria despite envoy recall

Bouraoui speaks with the media during demonstration in Algiers

PARIS (Reuters) - France will continue efforts to strengthen ties with Algeria despite Algiers accusing Paris on Wednesday of orchestrating the escape of an activist it wants to arrest, a French foreign ministry spokesman said on Thursday.

Algeria recalled its ambassador to Paris on Wednesday after Amira Bouraoui, a rights activist detained during the 2019 mass protests in Algeria and freed from prison in 2020, had allegedly crossed into Tunisia illegally after evading Algerian judicial surveillance, according to Algerian and French media.

Speaking to reporters, French deputy foreign ministry spokesman Francois Delmas declined to comment on the specific allegations but said that Bouraoui, a Franco-Algerian national, benefited from consular protection like all French nationals.

Algiers' reaction could trigger a new crisis between the countries after months of increasingly warm relations. French President Emmanuel Macron visited Algeria last year, warmly embracing President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on a trip that seemed to turn a page on years of difficult ties.

Algeria's powerful military chief, Said Chengriha, recently spent three days in Paris to discuss military issues including Africa's Sahel region and met Macron. Tebboune was due to visit Paris later this year.

"The recall of the ambassador is an Algerian decision, but for us we intend to continue to work to deepen our bilateral relations with a renewed partnership," Delmas said.

Bouraoui was arrested in Tunisia this week and faced an extradition hearing, but the judge ordered her to be freed and she was allowed to leave the country on Monday.

French media has reported that her release and flight to France resulted from French diplomatic pressure on Tunisia.

(This story has been corrected to rectify the nationality of Bouraoui in third paragraph)

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Nick Macfie)