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Falling out between Algiers and Paris comes to an end

By Farid Alilat
Posted on Wednesday, 17 June 2020 20:47

French President Emmanuel Macron addresses a news conference in Algiers, Algeria, on Dec. 6, 2017. (CHINE NOUVELLE/SIPA)

Barely 17 days after being recalled to Algiers, the ambassador of Algeria to France, Salah Lebdioui, has returned to his posting in Paris. The decision signals the end of the diplomatic incident between the two countries.

The quarrel turned out to be short-lived.

The ambassador of Algeria to France, Salah Lebdioui, has returned to his posting in Paris barely 17 days after being recalled to Algiers for consultations. The Algerian diplomat arrived on Saturday, 13 June aboard a special flight which landed at Paris-Le Bourget Airport. At the time of this writing, neither the Algerian president nor the Ministry of Communication were available to respond to our requests for comment regarding the resumption of the diplomat’s activities.

Salah Lebdioui had left Paris on Thursday, 28 May, also aboard a special flight, the day after the Algerian authorities threw a fit over the broadcasting of two documentaries on the Hirak movement, “Algérie, mon amour” (Algeria my love) on French TV channel France 5 and “Algérie, la révolution jusqu’au bout ?” (Algeria, the revolution until the end?) LCP.

READ MORE Algeria: Hirak at the time of coronavirus

In office since November 2009, the ambassador’s return signals the end of this temporary rift between Algeria and France.

A phone conversation on Tuesday 2 June between French President Emmanuel Macron and his Algerian counterpart, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, was the first sign of Lebdioui’s recall.

READ MORE Algeria: Macron finally breaks the taboo around French colonial past

Using diplomatic speak and carefully chosen words, the two heads of state agreed to “work to develop a peaceful relationship and an ambitious revival of bilateral cooperation in every area”.

A nearly perfect relationship

During an interview broadcast on Algerian television on Friday 12 June, the day before the ambassador’s return, Tebboune told the reporter that his relationship with Macron was nearly perfect, while laying into several unnamed lobbies which, he claimed, “are looking to incite conflict” between the two countries.

The immediate recall of Ambassador Lebdioui was preceded by a strong reaction on the part of the Algerian government, which was livid over the two TV programmes broadcast on French public TV channels, during which “the Algerian people and its institutions were attacked”.

The decision to recall the Algerian diplomat in Paris – a first since the February 1995 incident in which Ambassador Hocine Djoudi was recalled for several weeks – followed on the summoning of the French ambassador to Algeria, Xavier Driencourt, by the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs last March. In that instance, the authorities sought to protest remarks, which they felt were hostile, that were made on the French news channel France 24.

In office since April 2017, Driencourt will step down as ambassador this coming July to retire. His successor will be chosen over the next few days, as part of a series of diplomatic efforts getting underway at the Élysée. The name of François Gouyette, an expert on the Arab world who is currently serving in Saudi Arabia, keeps resurfacing.