Algiers – Algeria’s ambassador to Paris is to return to his post after he was recalled in October following comments by French President Emmanuel Macron that Algiers deemed offensive, the presidency said on Wednesday.
Relations between Algiers and Paris have been strained for much of the six decades since the former French colony won its independence after a 130-year occupation.
President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Wednesday met with the envoy, Mohamed Antar-Daoud, announcing that he “will resume his duties in Paris from Thursday,” his office said in a statement.
Macron has gone further than his predecessors in acknowledging French abuses during the colonial era.
But ties collapsed in October after he accused Algeria’s “political-military system” of rewriting history and fomenting “hatred towards France”.
In remarks to descendants of independence fighters, reported by Le Monde, Macron also questioned whether Algeria had existed as a nation before the French invasion in the 1800s.
As well as recalling Antar-Daoud, Algiers also banned French military planes from its airspace, which they cross to fly to the Sahel region where troops are helping to battle Islamist militants.
The Algerian president had warned in November he would not take “the first step” to calm tensions.
The dispute prompted a rare expression of contrition from the French presidency, which said it “regretted” the misunderstandings caused by the remarks.
An aide from Macron’s office said the French leader “has the greatest respect for the Algerian nation and its history and for Algeria’s sovereignty.”
Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra welcomed the statements “showing respect” to his country, and travelled to Paris to attend a conference on the crisis in Libya in November.
The following month, in December, France’s top diplomat Jean-Yves Le Drian visited Algiers and called for an easing of tensions.
Le Drian on that visit said Algeria was an “essential partner for France”, and that he hoped the two countries “will return together to the path of a peaceful relationship and look to the future”.
No deal was announced during that visit for any resumption of French flights over Algeria.
The easing of tensions comes as Algeria prepares in March to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its 1962 independence from France, which followed a bitter war.
The crisis was the most serious between the nations since 2005 when France’s parliament said teachers must stress “the positive role of colonisation”, a law annulled a year later after it infuriated Algiers.
Geneva-based expert Hasni Abidi said that “the back-pedalling” shown by Macron and Le Drian’s visit were “well received in Algiers and interpreted as a gesture of goodwill by the French authorities”.
With the pending return of the ambassador to Paris, “the crisis is behind us”, Hasni said, since there is a will on both sides “to overcome their differences and build a new relationship based on respect.”
Algerian political scientist Mansour Kedidir said that both nations understand it is “in their interest…to initiate a responsible dialogue”, stressing the “geopolitical challenges and the security threats” in the region, including jihadist militants in the Sahel as well as unrest in Libya.
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