Algeria has returned its ambassador Salah Lebdioui, in office since November 2009, to France, recalled at the end of May after the broadcast of French documentaries on the popular anti-regime movement “hirak”, signaling the return to normal of the often tumultuous relations between the two countries . Salah Lebdioui “has resumed since yesterday (Monday),” AFP said the Algerian embassy in Paris, confirming Algerian press reports.
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This umpteenth diplomatic quarrel ended after French President Emmanuel Macron called his Algerian counterpart Abdelmadjid Tebboune on June 2. The two heads of state were committed to “work for a peaceful relationship and an ambitious revival of bilateral cooperation”.
Algerian diplomat was recalled by angry Algerian authorities for consultations on May 27 after two documentaries on the Hirak were aired, Algeria, my love on France 5 and Algeria, the revolution to the end? on the LCP channel. And this, in a climate of permanent distrust of the Algerian authorities against the media, especially foreigners.
The Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused these two documentaries of damaging the “Algerian people and their institutions”, including the army.
He saw it as an act of “malevolence” by “certain circles who do not wish the advent of peaceful relations between Algeria and France”, 58 years after the independence of the former French colony. Algeria figure in the 146e place (out of 180) in the world press freedom ranking 2020 established by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). It fell by 27 places compared to 2015 (119e).
This new episode is part of a climate of repression against opponents, journalists (some in prison) and independent media.
Determined to prevent any resurgence of the “hirak”, the authorities have blocked in recent weeks several news sites accused of being funded by “foreign organizations”.
No accreditation, compulsory for work, was renewed in 2020 for permanent correspondents of foreign media in Algiers.
The accreditation of the director of the AFP office in Algiers, Aymeric Vincenot, had not been renewed in 2019, which had forced him to leave Algeria.
It is only the second time in the history of Franco-Algerian diplomacy that an Algerian ambassador to France has been recalled to Algiers since independence in 1962.
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During a meeting with Algerian media on Friday, President Tebboune said he had “no problem” with his French counterpart, stressing that he had displayed positions “that honor him” on the question of memory and ” the crimes of French colonialism ”.
This controversy illustrated once again the volatile nature of bilateral relations.
At the beginning of April, the French ambassador to Algeria, Xavier Driencourt, had already been summoned to Foreign Affairs after comments made on the international channel France 24 concerning Chinese medical aid, which had greatly displeased in Algiers. The ambassador recalled the independence of the press organs in France.
Paris strives not to put fuel on the fire while the anti-French discourse remains a powerful factor of legitimization in the eyes of the Algerian authorities.
France has thus refrained from any criticism after a series of arrests of militants of the “hirak”. With its thousands of kilometers of borders with Mali, Niger and Libya, Algeria is a key player in the fight against jihadism in the Sahel, where France is involved militarily.
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