8 June 2014

Algeria: Security and Energy Tops Agenda On French Foreign Minister's Visit to Algeria

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius starts a two-day visit to Algeria on Sunday in a bid to boost traditionally murky ties between Algiers and Paris.

France and Algeria have never fully reconciled since the Algerian war of independence that ended in 1962, with Algeria long pressing for an apology for France's treatment.

Fabius last visited the country in July 2012, and will use this trip to discuss bilateral trade, notably on energy issues and Algerian calls for more French investment.

The Algerian government will also use it as an opportunity to raise recurrent complaints about its massive population in France, and will broach subjects ranging from immigration, access to higher education, and visa quotas.

On the energy front, Algeria has become an attractive supplier of natural gas, a source gaining traction amid the potential cuts of Russian supply should relations deteriorate further.

Elyamine Settoul, a researcher at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, says Russian, American and Chinese influence is replacing France's diminishing influence long held in the region.

"Algerians buy their weapons and military equipment from the Russians. Americans work in the south of Algeria to explore the oil and gas and the Chinese work in construction projects," said Settoul in an interview with RFI. "It's clear that France wants to reinforce its traditional influence in this region of the world."

France is also keen to see Algeria play a stronger role in increasing security throughout the Maghreb and Sahel - a move that should be welcomed by Algeria with insecurity raging on its borders.

"France can provide a lot of military equipment, resources," said Settoul. "I think the struggle against terrorism needs this type of partnership."

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