0702 GMT October 17, 2021
The Algerian government on Sunday banned French military planes from its airspace a day after the Arab country recalled its ambassador from Paris in anger over “inadmissible” comments by French President Emmanuel Macron.
France's jets regularly fly over Algerian territory to reach the Sahel region of western Africa.
"This morning when we filed flight plans for two planes, we learned that the Algerians had stopped flights over their territory by French military planes," French Army spokesman Colonel Pascal Ianni told AFP.
Algeria’s move to ban French military planes from its airspace increased tensions between Paris and Algiers which on Saturday recalled its ambassador to France, citing "inadmissible interference" in its affairs.
According to French and Algerian media reports, Macron told descendants of figures in Algeria's war for independence that the country was ruled by a "political-military system" that had "totally re-written" its history.
"You can see that the Algerian system is tired, it has been weakened by the Hirak," he added, referring to the pro-democracy movement that forced Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power in 2019 after two decades at the helm.
The immediate recall of Algeria’s ambassador from France for “consultations” was announced Saturday evening in a statement from the Algerian presidency, according to AP.
The statement said the recall was motivated by recent comments about Algeria that were attributed to Macron. The comments amounted to “inadmissible interference” in Algeria’s affairs and were “an intolerable affront” to Algerians who died fighting French colonialism, the Algerian presidency said.
“The crimes of colonial France in Algeria are innumerable and fit the strictest definitions of genocide,” its statement said.
The newspaper Le Monde said Macron made the comments Thursday in a meeting at the presidential palace with French and Algerian grandchildren of former combatants in Algeria’s 1954-62 war of independence from France and people affected by the conflict’s aftermath.
In its report from the meeting, Le Monde said that Macron accused Algerian authorities of stoking hatred for France. The French leader also spoke about his government’s tightening of visas for North Africans, saying the visa reduction would target “people in the area of governance, who had a habit of asking for visas easily,” the newspaper reported.
The Algerian presidency said in its statement that Macron’s remarks were “an intolerable affront to the memory of the 5,630,000 valiant martyrs who sacrificed their lives in their heroic resistance of the French colonial invasion”.
It added that “nothing and nobody can absolve the colonial powers of their crimes.”
Algeria was also angered last week after France said it would sharply reduce the number of visas it grants to citizens of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.
France said the decision had been made necessary by the former colonies' failure to do enough to allow illegal migrants in France to be returned.