ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) – Algeria has refused permission for France to fly military planes in its airspace and announced the recall of its ambassador from Paris following what it described as comments “inadmissible” attributed to French President Emmanuel Macron.
The sharp escalation in tensions over the weekend also follows a French decision to reduce the number of visas delivered to the populations of North Africa – including Algeria – because governments refuse to take back migrants expelled from France.
The French request to allow two military planes to fly over Algerian territory on Sunday was rejected, French military spokesman Colonel Pascal Ianni said. One plane was due to depart from France, the other from Chad, he said.
Ianni said it was not clear whether Algeria was completely shutting down its airspace to the French military or whether Sunday flights would be the only ones affected.
“We haven’t had an official notification, so we’ll see,” he said. “Planners are thinking about how we’re going to adapt. “
Algeria had approved previous French flights in recent months, he said.
The flight ban follows the immediate recall of the Algerian ambassador from France for “consultations” – announced Saturday evening by the Algerian presidency.
The statement said the diplomat’s recall was prompted by recent comments on Algeria attributed to Macron. The remarks constituted “inadmissible interference” in the affairs of Algeria and were “an intolerable affront” to Algerians who died fighting French colonialism, the Algerian presidency said.
“The crimes of colonial France in Algeria are innumerable and correspond to the strictest definitions of genocide,” said his statement.
French media reported that Macron recently spoke about Algeria’s post-colonial system of government and his attitudes towards France. Le Monde newspaper said Macron made the comments Thursday during a meeting at the presidential palace with the French and Algerian grandchildren of veterans of Algeria’s war of independence from 1954 to 1962 and people affected by the consequences of the conflict.
In his report of the meeting, Le Monde said Macron accused the Algerian authorities of stoking hatred against France. The French leader also spoke of his government’s tightening of visas for North Africans, saying the reduction in visas would target “people in the field of governance, who used to apply for visas easily,” reported the newspaper.
French authorities have announced that the number of visas granted to Algerians and Moroccans will be halved, and Tunisians by 30%. The government said the decision responds to refusals by Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia to provide consular documents to their citizens expelled from France after their illegal arrival. All three countries were part of the French colonial empire, and many migrants to Europe and other visitors from these North African countries have family or other ties to France.
The Algerian presidency said in its statement that Macron’s words were “an intolerable affront to the memory of the 5,630,000 valiant martyrs who sacrificed their lives in their heroic resistance to the French colonial invasion.” There has been no explanation for how the Algerian authorities found so many.
He added that “nothing and no one can absolve the colonial powers of their crimes”.
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