French PM leads delegation to Algeria as ties ease

4. Algeria
Algeria’s Prime Minister Aymen Benabderrahmane (right) meets with his French counterpart Elisabeth Borne at the government palace in the capital Algiers, on October 9, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

ALGIERS — French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne arrived in Algeria on Sunday with a top-level delegation for a visit aimed at improving ties with the former French colony and major gas exporter.اضافة اعلان

Her two-day trip along with 16 ministers — over a third of her government — comes just six weeks after President Emmanuel Macron concluded a three-day visit that sought to end months of tensions with Algiers.

Prime Minister Ayman Benabderrahmane welcomed the delegation at the capital’s main airport.

Borne is expected to sign deals on economic cooperation, including energy — although deliveries of natural gas to France are “not on the table”, according to her office.

She was set to lay a wreath Sunday at a monument to martyrs of Algeria’s eight-year war for independence, and visit a cemetery for French nationals who lived in Algeria during France’s 132-year rule, which ended in 1962.

Ties between the North African country and its former colonial ruler had seen months of tensions after Macron last year questioned Algeria’s existence as a nation before the French occupation, accusing the government of fomenting “hatred towards France”.

But during his visit in August, Macron and his Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune drew a line under the spat.

On Sunday, the two spoke on the phone and confirmed their “satisfaction with the positive direction” of ties, Tebboune’s office said.

Borne is also set to meet Tebboune and is expected to sign several agreements with premier Benabderrahmane.

In an interview with news website Tout Sur l’Algerie (TSA), she said the visit would focus on “education, culture, the ecological transition and the economy”.

“More cooperation will be a source of growth for our two countries,” Borne said.

Gas supplies to Europe

The contentious subject of the two countries’ history, particularly during the war, will not feature prominently on her agenda.

During Macron’s visit, the president had announced the creation of a joint commission of historians to examine the colonial period, including the war. France says the panel is still being set up.

Macron has ruled out a state apology for acts committed during the colonial period.

Borne and her cohort are the latest in a string of top European officials to visit Algeria, Africa’s top natural gas exporter, in search of alternatives to Russian energy supplies since the start of the war in Ukraine.

Algeria’s Sonatrach signed a $4 billion oil and gas production deal with Italian, French, and US majors in July, but experts have cast doubt over Algeria’s ability to ramp up capacity in the short term.

In her interview with TSA, Borne noted that France does not depend heavily on natural gas.

But she said Paris wants to develop joint projects in the sector with Algeria “to increase the efficiency of its gas production capacity, which will increase its export capacity to Europe”.

The EU’s energy commissioner Kadri Simson is also expected in Algiers on Monday and Tuesday.

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