ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Algeria on Wednesday for a one-day working visit aimed at boosting security and economic cooperation.
Macron also hopes to “reshape” the troubled relationship between Algeria and France, complicated by the countries’ shared history. Algeria lived under French colonial rule from 1830 to 1962, a period that ended after an eight-year war.
Macron laid a wreath at the Martyrs’ Memorial, a monument commemorating the Algerian war for independence.
The French president then walked in a street in Algiers city center, exchanging a few words and shaking hands with many young Algerians. One of them called on the French president for a “visa, visa.”
Macron then planned to make a stop at Algiers’ most prestigious bookshop.
In the afternoon, he meets with Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
They were to discuss the situation in Algeria’s troubled neighbor, Libya, as well as cooperation in the fight against extremism in the Sahel region, according to the French presidency.
Last February during a visit to Algeria, then-presidential candidate Macron raised the topic of France’s troubled relationship with Algeria, calling the colonization of Algeria a “crime against humanity”.
The comments prompted controversy in France where the topic is still a source of tension. At the time, protests were organized by people with ties to Christian and Jewish families who moved to French colonies in North Africa before being expelled when those countries became independent.
“I now wish we can look together toward the future, with respect to our history,” 39-year-old Macron said in an interview to Algerian daily El Watan, stressing he is from a generation which hasn’t known the colonial period.
Before the visit, the minister of war veterans, Tayed Zitouni, said “relations between France and Algeria will never be quite normal. It’s a legitimate claim to call for excuses for colonial crimes.”
Associated Press writer Sylvie Corbet contributed to this report from Paris.