France’s President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday gave Turkey a back-handed compliment over what he called Ankara’s ability to erase its colonial past in the North African country.
“I am fascinated to see the capacity that Turkey has to make Algeria completely forget the role that it played in the country and the domination that it exerted,” French daily Le Monde cited Macron as saying on Sunday.
Macron’s remarks came amidst a deepening diplomatic row with Algeria over a decision by Paris to cut the number of visas it would be issuing to nationals to Algerians as well as nationals from Tunisia and Morocco.
While speaking to members of the French-Algerian descendants of the Harkis, Algerians who fought on the French side during Algeria’s war of independence, Macron also made critical comments about Algeria’s history and political system.
He described the North African state as being ruled by a “political-military system” and of authoring a national history centered around “a discourse of hatred towards France.” Macron insisted that his personal rapport with Algeria’s President Abdelmedjid Tebboune was good, but described the Algerian political system as “tired” after the Hirak protest movement from 2019 that rocked the country.
In response to these actions and statements, Algeria withdrew its ambassador to Paris on Sunday and forbade French military planes from crossings its airspace.
“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,” read a statement from the Algerian presidency.
“The crimes of colonial France in Algeria are innumerable and fit the strictest definitions of genocide,” it said.
Algeria was colonised by France in 1830 and remained so until it fought a an eight year war for independence from 1954 to 1962. It was a conflict marred by spectacular violence, including several massacres conducted by French forces and Algerian rebels, that was also deeply polarising in metropolitan France.
The Algerian ruling party, the National Liberation Front (NLF), has been in power since prying the country from France’s control. Since independence, Algerian politics has grappled with the military’s role in domestic politics.
Macron previously ruled out France issuing any apology for its colonisation of Algeria or its conduct during the Algerian War of Independence. The French leader has been fiercely unapologetic about his country’s history, whether it relates to its imperial past or its role in the African slave trade.
During the Ottoman Empire, Turkey exerted control over the coastal regions of modern day Algeria between 1519 to 1830, when it fell to France.
Today, Turkey and Algeria remain trade partners and they have shared views on conflicts in neighbouring Libya, where Turkish forces are currently stationed.