Fixing the Frays

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Algeria and France signed a series of agreements on energy and security over the weekend, following a three-day visit by French President Emmanuel Macron aimed at mending strained relations with the North African country, Al Jazeera reported.

Macron’s visit came amid ongoing disputes with France’s former colony, including issues related to migration and the legacy of colonial crimes. Algeria, the largest country in Africa by area, is the continent’s largest gas exporter and is already an important energy supplier to Europe, which is also seeking to further replace Russian energy imports. It is also an influential military player in North Africa and has long been a Western partner in the fight against terrorism.

The two nations agreed to cooperate on gas and hydrogen development, as well as medical research. One of the key points of the agreements is the establishment of a joint commission to examine archives from the 130 years of French rule over Algeria, which recently marked its 60th anniversary of independence.

This commission would investigate the fallout of French nuclear tests in the Sahara Desert, and try to resolve questions about the remains of slain Algerian resistance fighters and other issues that still linger since Algeria’s eight-year war for independence more than six decades ago.

Macron also vowed that France would become more flexible in issuing visas to Algerians after the issue sparked a major diplomatic crisis last year, the Associated Press noted.

The French leader has made efforts to acknowledge France’s past transgressions while shifting to a new era of relations with former colonial territories.

In recent years, he has acknowledged that French colonial forces used torture in Algeria. Last year, he commemorated the victims of a bloody police crackdown on pro-independence protesters in Paris in 1961.

While Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune hailed Macron’s visit and his efforts in rapprochement, many analysts in Algeria said the French leader stopped short of issuing an official apology for France’s colonial-era wrongdoing.

Mohand Arezki Ferrad of the Institute of History of Algiers told the Associated Press that the new commission is “a clever maneuver to clear (Macron) of the obligation to ask forgiveness from Algeria for what he himself called crimes against humanity.”

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