PARIS – The diplomatic discord between Algeria and France deepened Sunday after Algiers banned French military planes from its airspace, its latest response to a row over visas and critical comments from President Emmanuel Macron.
France’s jets regularly fly over the former French colony to reach the Sahel region of western Africa, where its soldiers are helping to battle jihadist insurgents as part of its Barkhane operation.
“This morning when we filed flight plans for two planes, we learned that the Algerians had stopped flights over their territory by French military planes,” an army spokesman, Colonel Pascal Ianni, told AFP.
He said the decision had “slightly impacted” supply flights but “does not affect our operations” in the Sahel.
But the move heightened tensions that had already flared Saturday when the Algerian government recalled its ambassador to France, citing “inadmissible interference” in its affairs.
According to French and Algerian media reports, Macron told descendants of figures in Algeria’s 1954-62 war for independence that the country was ruled by a “political-military system” that had “totally re-written” its history.
“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 Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power in 2019 after two decades at the helm.
Macron’s office did not deny the reported comments, but said the president was discussing the war in Algeria with French youths and answering questions, not giving an official interview.
Ianni said there had been no official notification of the flight ban, and the French foreign ministry, contacted by AFP, declined to comment.
Last year, the Algerian government criminalised the dissemination of what it considers “false news” that harms national unity.
Saturday’s ambassador recall was the second time it had done so, having taken a similar response in May 2020 after French media broadcast a documentary about the Hirak movement.
Algerian officials have cracked down on efforts to revive the pro-democracy protests, and rights groups say dozens of people linked to it have been jailed in recent months.
Algiers was also angered last week after France said it would sharply reduce the number of visas it grants to citizens of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.
Paris said the decision had been made necessary by the former colonies’ failure to do enough to allow illegal migrants in France to be returned.
When a French court denies a person’s visa request, authorities must still secure a consular travel pass from his or her home country in order to forcibly expel them, a document that Paris says Algiers, Rabat and Tunis are largely refusing to provide.
Macron has reportedly ordered the number of visa deliveries to Algeria and Morocco to be halved from 2020 levels, and by a third for Tunisia.
The Algerian foreign ministry summoned France’s ambassador Francois Gouyette on Wednesday to make a “formal protest” of the visa ruling.
more recommended stories
Stadium stand collapses as Dutch football fans celebrate football victory
Stadium stand collapses as bouncing Vitesse.
3 migrants dead after being hit by train in southern France – police
PARIS – Three migrants have died.
Germany puts 100-year-old on trial for Nazi crimes
A 100-year-old former concentration camp guard.
More than 200,000 children sexually abused by French Catholic Clergy
French clergy have sexually abused more.
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy: sentenced to jail
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was.
French President Macron struck by an egg in second attack
Emmanuel Macron was struck by a.
Same-sex marriage now legal in 30 countries
Swiss celebrate after voters approved same-sex.
U.K. plans to allow vaccinated travellers in without quarantine
Secretary of State for Transport of.