Algeria has denied France access to fly military planes over its airspace and has recalled its ambassador from Paris in the wake of what it said were “inadmissible” comments attributed to French President Emmanuel Macron.
The sharp escalation in tensions over the weekend also follows a French decision to slash the number of visas issued to people in North Africa because governments there are refusing to take back migrants expelled from France.
According to French military spokesman, Col. Pascal Ianni, a French request that two military planes be allowed to fly Sunday over Algerian territory was rejected. He noted that one plane was meant to depart from France while the other was from Chad.
Ianni said it isn’t clear whether Algeria is closing its airspace completely to the French military or whether Sunday’s flights will be the only ones affected.
The flight ban followed the immediate recall of Algeria’s ambassador from France for consultations announced Saturday evening by the Algerian presidency.
The statement from the Algerian presidency said the diplomat’s recall was motivated by recent comments about Algeria that were attributed to Macron. French media had reported that Macron spoke recently about Algeria’s post-colonial system of government and its attitudes to France.
The report stated that Macron accused Algerian authorities of stoking hatred for France. The French leader also allegedly spoke about his government’s tightening of visas for North Africans, saying the visa reduction would target people in the area of governance, who had a habit of asking for visas easily.
French officials announced the number of visas given to Algerians and Moroccans would be cut by half, and to Tunisians by 30%. The three countries were part of France’s colonial empire, and many Europe-bound migrants and other visitors coming from those North African nations have family or other ties in France.
The Algerian presidency said in its statement that Macron’s remarks were “an intolerable affront to the memory of the 5,630,000 valiant martyrs who sacrificed their lives in their heroic resistance of the French colonial invasion.” There was no explanation of how Algerian authorities came up with such a large number.
It added that nothing and no one can absolve the colonial powers of their crimes.
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