Brussels (Brussels Morning) Algeria closed its airspace to French military flights on Sunday, the latest escalation in the deepening diplomatic row between Paris and its former Mediterranean colony.
Algiers decided to bar access to its airspace to French military jets participating in the anti-terrorist Operation Barkhane in West Africa’s Sahel region. Such flights reportedly had been a regular occurrence in the past, and Algeria previously had kept its skies open for the French planes.
French Armed Forces spokesperson, Colonel Pascal Ianni, confirmed for AFP that Algiers denied access to its airspace to two military flights. However, he downplayed the development, claiming the decision would not have a major impact on France’s operations in the region, although he did all that it had affected supply flights.
According to Ianni, neither the French government nor the military received any official notification of the flight ban, which only came to light when the French military filed flight plans for two of its flights on Sunday, which were rejected.
Algiers had already withdrawn its ambassador from Paris for consultations on Saturday, in reaction to remarks by France’s President Emmanuel Macron which appeared in Saturday’s edition of Le Monde.
Macron, speaking of Algeria, said that the country has an official history which has been totally rewritten, and is not based on truths, but rather on “a discourse of hatred towards France”. The French President proceeded to ask whether Algeria even existed as a nation before it was colonized.
His comments came as tensions between France and Algeria were already seething, Paris having decided to limit the number of visas it grants to citizens of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia last week. Protesting the decision, Algeria summoned France’s ambassador in Algiers on Wednesday.