ATn the day after the lightning visit to Algiers by the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the headlines of the Algerian press are divided between two speeches: here we insist on an element of language, “first step” , and we ask ourselves questions. Algerian Evening title “Towards the end of the crisis? »WhileEl Watan wonders: “Algeria-France, the thaw? ” Freedom or other dailies use the terms “first step” in chorus. Certainly echoing the latest statements by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to the German weekly Der Spiegel, last November 5: “I will not be the one who takes the first step. […] Otherwise, I will lose all the Algerians. It is not about me, but about a national problem. […] No Algerian would accept that I contact those who insulted us. As a reminder, President Emmanuel Macron had provoked the anger of Algiers following comments, reported on October 2 by The world, accusing the Algerian “politico-military” system of maintaining a “memorial rent” which “is not based on historical truths”. He even went so far as to doubt the existence of an “Algerian nation before French colonization”.
Months of tension
The same day, Algiers recalled its ambassador to Paris and, the next day, October 3, decided to prohibit the overflight of its territory to French military planes engaged in Operation Barkhane in the Sahel, in particular in Mali. This crisis was preceded by the decision of Paris to halve the number of visas granted to Algerians following the refusal of the Algerian authorities to facilitate the extradition of its nationals subject to the obligation to leave French territory.
Yesterday’s visit by Le Drian to Algiers, a “delicate mission” according to several Algerian media, therefore comes after at least two months of tensions and declarations on both sides of the Mediterranean, all polluted by language escalation in France in an electoral context marked by the agitation of the far right and the right.
In six hours, Le Drian therefore met his counterpart Ramtane Lamamra at length, but above all had an audience with the Algerian president. Symbolic image and almost unimaginable just a few weeks ago. But, according to several sources in Algiers and Paris, the de-escalation was quietly initiated on both sides, even if it was difficult to publicly and quickly restore the channels of diplomatic and political communications.
Coming out of the audience with the Algerian president at the El Mouradia palace, Le Drian expressed, in front of the media, the wish of Paris to “work to remove the blockages and misunderstandings”, indicating that “during the exchanges the two parties have agreed to resume certain areas of bilateral cooperation ”.
“The state of mind is positive”
The French envoy specified that this relaunched cooperation “will result in[it] by the resumption of an operational dialogue on human and migration issues, and also by the resumption of an operational dialogue on the fight against terrorism and by [leurs] joint efforts to ensure the security of the two countries “, while hoping that” the dialogue [relancé] today could lead to a resumption of political exchanges between [leurs] two governments in 2022 ”.
“We remain very pragmatic, even if we do not give in on the issue of the relationship of equals. There are and there will be openings ”, confides a senior Algerian official at Point Afrique. On the French side, diplomatic sources in Paris want to be reassuring: “The state of mind is positive, the channels of cooperation and dialogue are being reinstalled, we want to reconstruct the new sequence. [post-crise] step by step with our Algerian partners. ”
“Several French officials prepared for this mission by making statements to appease the situation. Even Le Drian, considered yet to be one of the hawks in Paris, spoke before the French National Assembly, evoking contacts between the two parties to get out of this crisis, ”recalls the daily. El Khabar.
On November 16, before parliamentarians, the head of French diplomacy declared: “We have made efforts to re-establish the conditions for a peaceful relationship with Algeria. We want to work there seriously, with mutual respect and mutual respect for the sovereignty of each country. And it is on this basis that we intend to continue our action. ”
A “positive outcome”
A week before, on November 9, the Élysée Palace announced that President Macron “regrets[ait] polemics and misunderstandings “with Algeria and assured having” the greatest respect for the Algerian nation “and” its history “. A statement hailed by the Algerian foreign minister, Ramtane Lamamra: “Contrary to the statements at the origin of the crisis, those [faites par l’Élysée] are reasonable and include ideas showing respect for Algeria, its history, its past, its present and also for Algerian sovereignty. “
El Khabar argues that “this visit was certainly possible thanks to the positive outcome, within the two governments, of the appeasement option in order to put an end to this blockage which threatens the interests of the two countries”.
“But, if words are important – it is the very same thing of diplomacy – the fact remains that, without concrete acts which are in the interest of the two countries, relations risk falling back into banality”, maintains Freedom. For this daily, which headlines in a “The first step”, “perhaps the storm which strongly shaken the relations in Algiers and Paris will have been an opportunity to start again on good bases. We have to wait for the second step to find out ”.
Start with the economy?
A second step? The very official (and knowledgeable) daily El Mujahedin launches a track in its Thursday delivery by announcing the “programming of the 7e session of the Algerian-French Joint Committee (Comefa) ”. The last Comefa meeting took place in March 2020 in Algiers and was chaired by Le Drian and his counterpart at the time, Sabri Boukadoum. El Mujahedin goes so far as to write that the next Comefa meeting “will undoubtedly make it possible to take stock of all the files concerning economic and commercial cooperation between the two countries, in particular the projects of bilateral partnerships in the field of finance and investment, the automotive industry, the pharmaceutical industry, agriculture and agri-food as well as the new technologies and tourism sectors ”. An entire program ! So many areas where the French economic partners (and, in truth, even the Algerian private sector) are suffering blockages.