ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday that he hopes to "open a new chapter" in his country's relationship with Algeria, one of its former colonies in Africa, by boosting security and economic cooperation.
After arriving in Algiers for a one-day visit, Macron laid a wreath at the Martyrs' Memorial, a monument commemorating the Algeria's eight years of war with France that resulted in the country gaining independence in 1962 after 132 years under colonial rule.
"It's also a new chapter with this new Algerian generation who probably looks at France in a different way, who must also look at the promises of its own country and go and conquer a future which is not completely bright," Macron said while exchanging a few words and shaking hands with many young Algerians during a walk in the center of the capital city.
The French leader also is meeting with Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. They were to discuss the situation in neighboring Libya, as well as fighting extremism in the Sahel region of Africa, according to the French presidency.
As a president candidate in February, Macron visited Algeria and called France's colonization of the Muslim territory a "crime against humanity."
The comments prompted controversy in France, where the topic remains a source of tension. People with ties to Christian and Jewish families who moved to French colonies in North Africa before being expelled when the countries won independence held protests.
Macron, 39, noted in an interview with Algerian daily newspaper El Watan published Wednesday that he belongs to a generation which never knew French colonialism.
"I now wish we can look together toward the future, with respect to our history," he said.
Hadda Hazem, the editor of El-Fadjr newspaper, told The Associated Press that because of Algeria's complex history with France "we have missed out on relations which would have been more beneficial to Algeria, such as with Germany, Europe's top economic power."
Hazem recently went on a hunger strike to protest what she calls Algerian authorities' attempts to stifle her newspaper.
"We have to be more pragmatic. Our national interests must come first", she said.
Macron will depart Algiers Wednesday night for Doha, Qatar, where he is to visit French military forces based there and meet Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
Andrew Drake in Algiers and Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to this report