President François Hollande has acknowledged that France’s colonisation of Algeria had been “brutal and unfair” but stopped short of making an apology to the oil-rich North African state.
Mr Hollande had hoped his visit would not only strengthen trade ties but improve security cooperation, as Paris pushes for intervention against Islamists who have seized control of northern Mali.
Mr Hollande’s comments on the 1954-1962 Algerian war, which ended in Algerian independence, are likely to be carefully analysed for signs they could help remove lingering resentment about the conflict in both countries, a legacy that has held back a trading partnership which Paris hopes could revive the Mediterranean basin’s economic fortunes.
“For 132 years, Algeria was subjected to a brutal and unfair system: colonisation. I acknowledge the suffering it caused,” Mr Hollande told the Algerian parliament on the second day of his visit.
A formal apology for France’s colonial past is a sensitive issue. Many French citizens who lived there before independence and who fought in the French army against Algerian insurgents oppose the idea, as do former loyalist Muslim volunteers known as “harkis”.