French President Jacques Chirac will make an official visit to Algeria some time next year, a presidential spokesman announced on Thursday, as Paris and Algiers continue to mend their troubled relations.
Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem, in Paris for talks with Chirac and other French officials, delivered an invitation from President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to the French leader to visit in the year 2003, at a date which has not yet been determined, according to AFP.
Belkhadem said the trip would mark "a major step" in Franco-Algerian relations, according to Chirac's deputy spokesman Frederic Desagneaux. Since gaining independence from France forty years ago following a brutal war, Algeria has been hesitant to forge close relations with France, perceiving overtures from Paris as a bid to interfere in its domestic affairs.
However, relations improved significantly with Bouteflika's visit to France in June 2000 and Chirac's lightning visit to Algeria last December as part of a tour of North Africa. "In this context, I sincerely hope that my visit will be an additional _expression of our common willingness to create a strong link between the two countries," the French president told Belkhadem.
Before Chirac's visit to Algiers in December, the last visit to the country by a French president was by the late Francois Mitterrand in 1989. Chirac himself visited as Prime Minister in 1986. (Albawaba.com)
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