16 July 2012

Algeria: Foreign Minister Fabius Meets With President Bouteflika

France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius made his first official trip to Algeria on Monday, where he met with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to discuss relations between the two countries, and the political crisis in neighbouring Mali.

Ahead of talks, Fabius spoke of his respect for Algeria's president, specifying the contents of their meeting.

"I will speak with him about Franco-Algerian relations, as well as other international matters since [Bouteflika] has a lot of experience in this area," Fabius told the AFP news agency. "I will pass on a message of friendship from François Hollande, and we will also talk about the future."

Fabius plans to discuss a visit to Algeria by France's newly elected President François Hollande in the autumn.

Fabius is also expected to continue talks on Mali with Algeria's government, which he began on Sunday with his counterpart Mourad Medelci.

President Hollande also spoke about the Mali crisis in a television interview for France's national holiday on Saturday, where he said that Africans must decide how and when to intervene militarily in Mali. He added that France must show solidarity with them.

Since the beginning of the Mali crisis, which extends across Algeria's southern border, Algeria has backed diplomacy, while France favours intervention.

Mali was thrown into chaos in March when a coup d'etat allowed Tuareg separatists and rebels allegedly linked to Al-Qaeda to sweep across Mali in a rapid offensive.

The rebels have since ousted their Tuareg rivals, enforcing Islamic law and raising fears of the area becoming a breeding ground for terrorism.

Algeria played a key role in mediating between Tuareg rebels and Mali authorities in 2006, and many observers hope it will again throw its weight behind finding a solution to the current conflict in Mali.

Meanwhile, Algeria and France continue to foster improved relations. On Algeria's 50th anniversary of independence from France on 5 July, Hollande wrote to Bouteflika that France should be able to take a "clear and responsible look" at its past in Algeria.

Bouteflika responded on France's national holiday on 14 July that it was time to conduct a "lucid and bold" review of the countries' past, in an attempt to strengthen ties.

France ruled Algeria for 132 years. An estimated one million Algerians live in France, while around 24,000 French citizens live in Algeria.

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