Algeria has welcomed comments from the office of French President Emmanuel Macron expressing regret over a dispute sparked by his criticism of the former French colony.
Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra also confirmed on Wednesday that Algerian officials would attend a conference on Libya in Paris, although President Abdelmadjid Tebboune himself would not.
The statement from Macron’s office “contained reasonable ideas that respect Algeria, its history, past and present, and respect Algeria’s sovereignty,” Lamamra told Algerian diplomats.
Macron had in October accused Algeria’s ruling system of rewriting history and fomenting anti-French hatred, but his office on Tuesday stressed his “greatest respect” for the North African country.
“The president regrets the controversies and misunderstandings generated by the remarks reported and I will add that President Macron has the greatest respect for the Algerian nation, its history and the sovereignty of Algeria,” the official said.
“He is strongly attached to the development of our two countries bilaterally for the benefit of the Algerian and French populations and also to meet the great regional challenge, starting with Libya.”
The exchange comes as France prepares for a high-level summit on Friday on Algeria’s war-torn neighbour Libya, aimed at ensuring elections go ahead in December.
Macron had invited Tebboune to the conference.
“It was decided that Algeria would participate in the conference, but not at the level of the president of the Republic,” Lamamra said on Wednesday.
“The conditions are sufficient (for him) to personally participate in the conference, despite his commitment to the effective role of Algeria alongside Libyan brothers and pushing the Libyan cause to the desired peaceful and democratic solution.”
Relations between France and Algeria have been strained for much of the 60 years since the former French colony won its independence after a brutal war.
Since his election in 2017, Macron has gone further than his predecessors in owning up to French abuses during a 130-year occupation, but ties deteriorated again in October after he accused Algeria’s “political-military system” of rewriting the country’s history to foment “hatred towards France”.
In remarks to descendants of independence fighters reported by the Le Monde newspaper, Macron also questioned whether Algeria had existed as a nation before the French invasion in the 1800s.
That sparked a fierce reaction from Algiers, coming after Paris’s decision a month earlier to sharply reduce the number of visas it grants to citizens of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.
Algiers withdrew its ambassador and banned French military planes from its airspace, which they regularly use to carry out operations in West Africa.
Macron had attempted to mend fences with Tebboune, but the Algerian leader had accused him of criticising Algeria for electoral gains and “completely pointlessly” reviving an old conflict.
Both US Vice President Kamala Harris and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are set to attend the Libya conference.