BEIRUT

Middle East

Algeria president urges 'dynamic' ties with France

In this Monday, April 6, 2009 file photo, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, gestures, during his last campaign rally in Algiers. (AP Photo, File)

ALGIERS: President Abdelaziz Bouteflika told AFP in an exclusive interview that Algeria wants "strong and dynamic" relations with France, ahead of a visit to Algiers by French President Francois Hollande.

Algeria "favours a strong and dynamic relationship with France, based on the depth of links and the many interests which unite our two countries," Bouteflika said in a written reply to questions from AFP.

Hollande is scheduled to visit Algeria on December 19-20, and hopes to improve relations between the two countries.

In October, the French president recognised the "bloody repression" of Algerian protesters by police in Paris in 1961, which historians killed dozens, possibly hundreds.

"We hope that the visit of Francois Hollande will mark a new stage in our bilateral relations which are expected to deepen," said Bouteflika, who rarely gives interviews to the media.

Both sides want a "special partnership," the form of which was "ultimately unimportant," said the Algerian president.

"It is consistency that is essential," he said in response to a question about stalled efforts on reaching an agreement for a "Treaty of Friendship" with France.

French-Algerian relations, which have been patchy since 1962, were lukewarm under Hollande's predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, but economic ties always prevailed.

France is a leading exporter to Algeria behind Italy, the United States and Spain, while there are 450 French companies operating in Algeria, making Paris a significant non-oil investor.

In October, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that both countries wanted to reach an agreement on a "strategic partnership" during Hollande's visit.

"We want the challenge of building a partnership that resists contingencies and moves beyond trade relations," Bouteflika said, adding he wants "intense dialogue at all levels" and a "win-win" partnership that aids "economic, social and human development".

He also said he wanted to "transcend many burdens" that are not defined but which include 132 years of French colonisation and the war that led to Algerian independence 50 years ago.

Commenting on the past five decades, the president said he could only "reaffirm that Algeria and France had obligations to work together as there were numerous interdependencies".

"We have a responsibility to our peoples."

 

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