The Algerian government has banned French military planes from its airspace, the French army said on Sunday, a day after Algeria’s decision to recall its ambassador to Paris over French President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial comments.
France’s jets regularly fly over Algerian territory to reach the Sahel region of western Africa, where its soldiers are helping to battle jihadist insurgents as part of its Barkhane operation.
“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,” an army spokesman, Colonel Pascal Ianni, told AFP.
He said the move “does not affect our operations or intelligence missions” carried out in the Sahel.
The latest development increased tensions between Paris and Algiers, which on Saturday recalled its ambassador to France, citing “inadmissible interference” in its affairs.
The French media said earlier on Saturday that Macron made some remarks during a short dialogue with a group of young people whose parents or grandparents fought with the French army against Algerian revolutionists during the Algerian war (1954-1962).
Macron reportedly said the North African country was ruled by a “political-military system” and described Algeria as having an “official history” which had been “totally re-written,” the French daily Le Monde reported.
He said this history was “not based on truths” but “on a discourse of hatred towards France,” according to Le Monde – though he made clear that he was not referring to Algerian society as a whole but to the ruling elite.
“Faced with the particularly inadmissible situation inflicted by these irresponsible remarks, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune decided to immediately recall the ambassador,” a statement from the Algerian president’s office said, claiming the remarks are harmful to Algerian martyrs who fought for independence from France.
Algeria categorically rejects Macron’s statements, which “constitute interference in its domestic affairs,” it said.
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.
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