Algeria president urges 'dynamic' ties with France: AFP

AFP , Tuesday 11 Dec 2012

Ahead of a visit to Algeria by French President Francois Hollande, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika stated that his country wants "strong and dynamic" ties with former colonial ruler France


President Abdelaziz Bouteflika told AFP in an exclusive interview that Algeria wants "strong and dynamic" ties with former colonial ruler France, ahead of a visit to Algiers by his French counterpart.

Algeria "favours a strong and dynamic relationship with France, based on the depth of links and the many interests which unite our two countries," Bouteflika said in a written reply to questions from AFP.

French President Francois Hollande is due to visit the North African nation on December 19-20.

In October, Hollande recognised the "bloody repression" of Algerian protesters by police in Paris in 1961, which historians say killed dozens, possibly hundreds.

"We hope that the visit of Francois Hollande will mark a new stage in our bilateral relations which are expected to deepen," said Bouteflika, who rarely gives interviews to the media.

Both sides want a "special partnership," the form of which was "ultimately unimportant," said the Algerian leader.

"It is consistency that is essential," he said in response to a question about stalled efforts on reaching an agreement for a "Treaty of Friendship" with France.

French-Algerian relations, which have been patchy since 1962, were lukewarm under Hollande's predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, but economic ties always prevailed.

France is a leading exporter to Algeria behind Italy, the United States and Spain, while 450 French companies operate in Algeria, making Paris a significant non-oil investor.

In October, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that both countries wanted to reach an agreement on a "strategic partnership" during Hollande's visit.

"We want the challenge of building a partnership that resists contingencies and moves beyond trade relations," Bouteflika said, adding he wants "win-win" ties that aid "economic, social and human development".

He also said he wanted to "transcend many burdens" that are undefined but which include 132 years of French colonisation and the war that led to Algerian independence 50 years ago.

Commenting on the past five decades, the president said he could only "reaffirm that Algeria and France had obligations to work together as there were numerous interdependencies".

"We have a responsibility to our peoples."

More than half a million Algerians live in France and hundreds of thousands of others have French nationality.

Looking to the future, Bouteflika did not speak about demands that France "recognise crimes it perpetrated against the Algerian population".

"We must learn from our past experience and actions, and the path of cooperation and partnership can always be improved," he said.

Bouteflika also commented on the situation in northern Mali -- which has been occupied by jihadists like Al-Qaeda -- saying it was a "global threat that has no nationality, region or religious affiliation".

"Mali enjoys the support of the international community," he said when asked whether Algeria would accept aid from France and the United States for countering the Islamists in Mali.

Bouteflika, who came to power in 1999 and has been re-elected twice, also commented on reforms launched in April 2011 that include the approval of new parties, the presence of women in parliamentary elections and a review of the constitution.

"This reform process is irreversible because it is unanimously (accepted) by the political class and the civil society," said the Algerian leader.

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