French PM cancels visit to Algiers as tension brews
Paris has cancelled a visit by its Prime Minister Jean Castex to Algiers citing pandemic concerns but observers see this reason as only a tip of an iceberg that includes at its core, inter alia, France’s open support for Morocco’s territorial integrity and its sovereignty over the Sahara.
The visit was postponed sine die because of the pandemic, Castex’s office told AFP, adding that the Algerian-French ministerial meeting will be convened once health conditions are more propitious.
Algerian officials have resented the composition of the delegation which was not senior enough with only four ministers visiting and for a single day, Algerian media reported.
Algeria was also insisting on an apology from France for its occupation which President Macron said was never going to happen.
The cancellation might also be an immediate reaction of statements by Algeria’s labor minister Hechemi Djaaboub who told MPs on April 8 that France is his country’s “traditional and lasting enemy.”
Some press reports noted that the meeting was postponed after a tense military meeting between the Algerian army chief, Saïd Chengriha, and the French chief of staff, General François Lecointre. According to the EFE news agency, the two military authorities discussed the nuclear tests in the Sahara desert, the latest developments in the Sahel as well as the Sahara conflict.
Moroccan media however mentioned the decision of Macron’s party La Republique en Marche to set up a branch in Dakhla in Morocco’s Sahara as a move that might have irked Algerian regime.
The PM’s visit was to be marked by a High-Level Intergovernmental Committee, which had not been held since 2017 because of the Hirak, social protest movement.
At the end of 2020, there were rumors about the resumption of talks between the two countries, but the hospitalization at that time of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune abroad made this impossible.