Diplomacy, business, break-dancing: Macron visits Algeria

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ORAN, Algeria (AP) — The leaders of France and Algeria took an important step Saturday toward mending relations scarred by disputes over migration and the legacy of colonial crimes, agreeing to cooperate on energy, security and reassessing their joint history.

French President Emmanuel Macron wrapped up a three-day visit to Algeria with a raft of accords that France hopes will smooth ties with Africa’s largest country, a major gas and oil supplier to Europe and an influential regional military player.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune hailed “a very successful visit” and credited Macron’s personal efforts toward rapprochement. The two were chummy at their final meeting Saturday, smiling, embracing and holding hands. Tebboune specifically praised their meetings on security, without elaborating.

But the joint accords released by Macron’s office were thin on specifics, and stop far short of an official apology for France’s colonial-era wrongdoing, which Algerians have long clamored for.

They included agreements on gas and hydrogen research, medical research, sports cooperation and a joint commission to examine archives from the 130 years when Algeria was the crown jewel in France’s empire and from Algeria’s eight-year independence war.

“We had moving moments these last few days that allowed us to build the foundation of what is to come,” Macron said. He acknowledged, however, “A lot remains to be done.”

Earlier Saturday, Macron watched a performance by would-be Olympic break-dancers and visited an Algerian record store celebrated by a famous DJ, a feel-good interlude during a trip dominated by diplomacy.

Both stops were seen as part of Macron relying on young people to pitch Franco-Algerian relations forward after decades of tensions.

The French leader visited Disco Maghreb, an iconic record store In the western Algerian city of Oran and a recording label for artists who perform traditional Rai music. Franco-Algerian artist DJ Snake has helped bring attention to Disco Maghreb and Rai rhythms, and Macron sent the DJ a TikTok video message from the shop.

Macron also viewed a performance by Algerian break-dancers who hope to compete in the 2024 Olympics in Paris, where breakdancing is making its debut as an Olympic sport.

Macron promised France would become more flexible in issuing visas to citizens of Algeria after a major diplomatic crisis between the two countries over the issue last year.

Economic cooperation was a major part of the trip. Russia’s war in Ukraine has reinforced the North African nation’s role as a key energy supplier as European countries seek alternatives to Russian energy.

Macron’s office said he would also raise human rights concerns. Algeria has seen a creeping crackdown on dissent since pro-democracy protests in 2019.

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Oleg Cetinic in Oran and Algiers contributed to this report.

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