Algeria recalls ambassador to France as diplomatic row mounts

Algeria has recalled its ambassador to France for consultations as diplomatic tensions mount over comments by Emmanuel Macron that the former French colony was ruled by a “political-military system”.

“Algeria recalls its ambassador [Mohamed Antar-Daoud] from Paris for consultations,” state television said, quoting a statement from the presidency.

It said a longer statement would follow to explain the move.

Le Monde on Saturday quoted the French president as saying Algeria has an “official history” that has been “totally rewritten”.

He said this history was “not based on truths” but “on a discourse of hatred towards France”, according to Le Monde.

“Was there an Algeria nation before French colonisation,” Macron reportedly asked.

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 that forced Tebboune’s predecessor Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power in 2019 after two decades at the helm.

The remarks, widely picked up by Algerian media, came in a meeting earlier this week between Macron and relatives of figures from Algeria’s war of independence.

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 the French ambassador, François 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”.

The Tunisian president, Kais Saied, expressed disappointment with the decision in a telephone call with Macron on 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.