Ties with Algiers have become more important for Europe due to the growing demand for gas amid the war in Ukraine.
President Emmanuel Macron said France and Algeria should move beyond their “painful” shared history and look to the future as he begins a three-day visit to the former colony.
“We have a complex and painful common past, and it has sometimes prevented us from looking to the future,” Macron said after meeting his Algerian counterpart, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, on Thursday.
Speaking at a press conference, Tebboune responded by saying the visit had yielded “encouraging results” and he hoped it would “open up new prospects for partnership and cooperation with France”.
He said they discussed how to bring stability to Libya, the Sahel region and the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
French colonial rule in Algeria and the bitter war of independence that ended it in 1962 haunted relationships between the two countries for decades.
Ties with Algiers have become more important for Paris due to the war in Ukraine which has increased demand in Europe for North African gas, as well as heavy migration across the Mediterranean.
European nations are look to algeria — Africa’s largest gas exporter with direct pipelines to Spain and Italy — to end their dependence on Russian hydrocarbons.
Meanwhile, Algiers is looking to take advantage of rising energy prices to lock in European investment.
Macron has repeatedly tried to turn the page with his former colony. In 2017, before his election, he called French actions during the 1954-62 war that killed hundreds of thousands of Algerians a “crime against humanity”.
The statement won him popularity in Algeria but was politically controversial in France, which has more than four million people of Algerian descent.
However, he caused a storm in Algeria last year when he excluded from issuing an official apology and suggested that Algerian national identity did not exist prior to French rule.
He also appeared to accuse Algeria’s ruling elite – which is still dominated by the generation that fought for independence – of rewriting the history of the independence struggle based on a hatred of France.
Algeria withdrew its ambassador for consultations and closed its airspace to French planes, complicating the French military mission in the Sahel.
Before meeting Tebboune, Macron visited a monument to Algerians killed in war, laying a wreath there. He said the two governments would establish a joint committee of historians to study colonial-era records.
French historians say that half a million civilians and combatants died during Algeria’s bloody war of independence, including 400,000 Algerians. Algerian authorities say 1.5 million people have been killed.
Tebboune’s office said in October that more than 5.6 million Algerians had been killed during the colonial period.
Algerian human rights groups have urged Macron not to overlook abuses by the government that came to power after a longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned in 2019.