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Algerian president says will not make ‘first move’ to ease tensions with France

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune says he has no intention of making the “first move” to ease tensions with former colonial power France following a row over incendiary comments by his French counterpart.

The ties between Algiers and Paris turned sour after a visa row and media reports last month that said French President Emmanuel Macron had accused the ruling elite in Algeria of “feeding a grudge against France” and questioned the existence of an Algerian nation before French colonialism entered the country in 1830.

“Macron completely pointlessly revived an old conflict,” Tebboune told German magazine Der Spiegel on Saturday. “I won’t be the one to make the first move to ease tensions. No Algerian will accept it if I get in touch with those who insulted us.”

According to French daily Le Monde, during a meeting with French-Algerians in early October, Macron had said Algeria was ruled by a “political-military system” and had described the country’s “official history” as having been “totally re-written” to something “not based on truths” but “on a discourse of hatred toward France.”

The office of Algeria’s president responded at the time by saying the comments had been an “interference” in the country’s internal affairs, and Algerian media slammed the remarks as “vitriolic.”

Tebboune told the German magazine on Saturday that the French president’s comments reflected “the old hatred of colonial masters, and I know that Macron is far from thinking like this.”

Asked by Der Spiegel if the fallout was likely to be resolved any time soon after Algeria recalled its ambassador from Paris and banned French military planes from its airspace, Tebboune was defiant.

“No, if the French want to go to Mali or Niger now, they will just have to fly for nine hours instead of four,” the Algerian president said. France has deployed troops to Mali and Niger allegedly to carry out counter-terrorism operations.

Tebboune, however, added that he would make an exception to “rescue wounded people.”

Algeria recalled its ambassador to France for consultations after the French government decided to decrease the number of visas granted to Algerian nationals, accusing the former French colony of not doing enough to allow illegal immigrants to return.

Algerian activists have launched a widespread social media campaign demanding the boycott of French products and expulsion of France’s ambassador from the North African country following Macron’s insulting remarks.

The Algerian government is also reportedly considering reviewing economic and trade relations with the former colonizer.               

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