Algeria-France / A Diplomat assures that “Russia can advance the Malian file, and more generally the Sahelian file”.

Emmanuel Macron recently visited Algeria, a visit – described as successful by the Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and which ended with the signing of a joint declaration in which the two presidents renewed their commitment to inscribe their relations in a dynamic of irreversible progress”. The former French ambassador to Algeria, Xavier Driencourt analyzes this trip.

France and Algeria recently signed a joint statement in which the two countries pledge a renewed partnership. Do you believe in this commitment?

I think there are a lot of good words, there are a lot of phrases that we are used to in international diplomacy, and we can copy and paste with other previous statements.

“We can think that Algeria, which has good relations with Russia, which is very present in Mali, will not be able to serve as an intermediary, but will also be able to allow us to move the Malian file forward…”

In this context, I first note the creation of a military committee. Because France had been asking for exchanges, information, cooperation with Algeria for some time on military issues, on Libya, on the Sahel, and it was always Algiers that shied away. Then come the matters of memory and others and finally, the lack of precision with regard to what is called mobility, that is to say, roughly, immigration.

Is it quite an evolution to see the two presidents in the company of their chiefs of staff?

Yes, absolutely, I believe that this is the most important point of this visit, for us in any case, because we have been asking for a meeting of such a committee for a long time, and we must not forget that Algeria knows this region well, it knows Mali, it knows the Sahel, its backyard, and it knows Libya well, so it’s true that it’s important.

In what ways can the partnership between Algiers and Paris be strengthened to fight against the terrorist threat in the Sahel?

Nothing should be expected, I think, on the military level, that is to say that there will be no armed military engagement from Algeria in Mali. I don’t think you should expect anything on that. On the other hand, we can think that Algeria, which has good relations with Russia, which is very present in Mali, will not be able to serve as an intermediary, but will also be able to allow us to move the Malian file forward, and more generally the Sahelian dossier.

For example, you ask me how all this can be translated, you know that there is the G5 Sahel on the French side and on the Algerian side, they created what is called Cemoc, which is a state committee- major of the countries of the Sahel who is based in Tamanrasset. We can think that things will evolve towards a rapprochement of these two structures, there you go, these are concrete things.

Wasn’t the energy issue one of the challenges of this visit by President Macron?

No, I do not think so. We couldn’t avoid talking about gas, oil… gas, especially with Algeria. So that was not the issue of this visit, the issue was a reformatting, a refounding, I don’t know what the right term is, of the Franco-Algerian relationship. Gas was probably one of the subjects of discussion, but it was not the central subject.

Regarding the possible creation of a joint commission of historians responsible for working on the archives, are Algiers and Paris really ready – to agree to look at their common past?

It will be complicated, even difficult – this past is complex, because we are not going to look at the war in Algeria, but we are going to look at the 132 years of colonization, that is to say since 1830, and between approximately 1830 and 1945, French colonization was not always exemplary, I would say, so we are going to come across extremely difficult cases.

It will also be difficult because you will have to find independent, competent and independent historians on both sides, it will be very complicated in my opinion. And then finally, it will be a difficult file because behind all this, there are also related files, I would say in particular the question of nuclear tests.

And so, by opening this folder “ memory in the broad sense, rather history, we open something uncontrollable. And I know a little bit about this Algerian file to tell you that we won’t find a solution tomorrow. So the two presidents gave themselves a year to move forward. We’ll see in a year.

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