The Algerian government has banned French military planes from its airspace, the French army said on Sunday, amid a diplomatic crisis sparked by a visa row and reported critical comments from President Emmanuel Macron.
France’s jets regularly fly over Algerian territory to reach the Sahel region of western Africa, where its soldiers are helping to battle jihadist insurgents as part of its Barkhane operation.
“This morning when we filed flight plans for two planes, we learned that the Algerians had stopped flights over their territory by French military planes,” an army spokesman, Colonel Pascal Ianni, told AFP.
He said the decision “does not affect our operations or intelligence missions” carried out in the Sahel.
But the move increased tensions between Paris and Algiers, which on Saturday recalled its ambassador to France, citing “inadmissible interference” in its affairs.
According to French and Algerian media reports, Macron told descendants of figures in Algeria’s war for independence that the country was ruled by a “political-military system” that had “totally re-written” its history.
“You can see that the Algerian system is tired, it has been weakened by the Hirak,” he added, referring to the pro-democracy movement that forced Abdelaziz Bouteflika from power in 2019 after two decades at the helm.
Algeria was also angered last week after France said it would sharply reduce the number of visas it grants to citizens of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.
France said the decision had been made necessary by the former colonies’ failure to do enough to allow illegal migrants in France to be returned.