On Sunday, Algeria closed its airspace to France over comments reportedly made by French President Emmanuel Macron, which have caused an escalating diplomatic row. The airspace’s closure could affect the French military that uses the Algerian airspace to support its forces in the Sahel. 

In an interview with the AFP news agency, French Armed Forces spokesman, Colonel Pascal Ianni said that “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.”

Ianni added that the closure of Algerian airspace “does not have major consequences for operations or intelligence missions” carried out in the Sahel. However, he did say that the closure of Algerian airspace had “slightly impacted” supply flights in the Sahel, where French troops are battling Islamic jihadists.


Diplomatic Blows

Tensions between the two countries have been increasing. On Saturday, Algeria recalled its ambassador to France using reported comments by French President Emmanuel Macron as an “inadmissible interference” in its internal affairs.

French President Macron was quoted in Le Monde as saying he estimated that after its independence in 1962 Algeria was built on “a memorial rent” maintained by “the politico-military system.” He also added that “the official history was completely rewritten” and “is not based on truths” but on “a speech which is based on a hatred of France.”

“Was there an Algeria nation before French colonization?” Macron reportedly asked.

In response, the Algerian presidency released a statement saying, “Following remarks that have not been denied, which several French sources have attributed by name [to] the president of the French Republic, Algeria expresses its categorical rejection of the inadmissible interference in its internal affairs.” The statement called Macron’s comments “an intolerable affront to Algerians who died fighting French colonialism.”

“The crimes of colonial France in Algeria are innumerable and fit the strictest definitions of genocide,” it added.

French armored vehicles
French armored vehicles operating in the Sahel. (File photo)

The recall of the Algerian ambassador for consultations comes amid news that France is sharply curtailing the number of visas granted to Algerians, Moroccans, and Tunisians over their refusal to take back illegal immigrants.

Algeria also summoned François Goyette the French Ambassador to Algiers, for a formal government protest over the visa flap.

“This decision, which took place without prior consultation with the Algerian party, contains the crippling anomaly of having been the subject of a media hype generating confusion and ambiguity as to its motivations and its scope,” the Algerian government said about the visa cuts.

Algeria won its independence from France in 1962 after a difficult and bloody revolution. Since its independence, Algeria’s ruling elite has been largely drawn from veterans of its war of liberation from France.

While the closure of Algerian airspace for a short amount of time may not adversely affect French operations in the Sahel, a long-term closure would definitely do. Algeria is located just north of the Sahel and all operational support flows through there.