Algeria: Hollande's Algeria Joke 'Light Humour' Say Entourage

The French president's office on Sunday attempted to play down talk of a diplomatic incident with Algeria, describing a comment made by François Hollande's as 'light humour'.

On 16 December, Hollande had told a gathering of Jewish groups in Paris that his interior minister, Manuel Valls, had returned from a visit to Algeria "safe and sound", adding in a jocular tone, "that's saying something".

Hollande's entourage called the comment a gentle joke "which could have been about anybody in any country and had no particular meaning concerning Algeria".

The comment was not well-received by Algerian newspapers and on social media networks.

The Algerian government said the comments detracted from the links between the two countries but seemed keen not to overplay their importance.

"We ended 2012 with the brilliant success of François Hollande's state visit to Algeria. 2013 is not yet over, we do not wish to end on a bad note so we hope in the coming days to find a way to turn the page on this regrettable incident", said Algeria's Foreign Affairs minister Ramtane Lamamra.

But Farouk Ksentin, of Algeria's government-run Human Rights Commission, the CNCPPDH, called on Hollande to apologise for his "provocative" remarks.

In France, Hollande was also criticised by political opponents. On the left one described the comment as nauseous, while a right wing politician labelled the comment "out of order".

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