ALGIERS (Reuters) - President Francois Hollande acknowledged on Thursday France’s colonization of Algeria had been “brutal and unfair” but he stopped short of an apology to the oil-rich North African state that Paris sees as a major trading partner.
“For 132 years, Algeria was subjected to a brutal and unfair system: colonization. I acknowledge the suffering it caused,” Hollande told the Algerian parliament on the second day of a visit aimed at improving diplomatic and economic relations.
“We respect the act of memory, of all the memories. There is a duty of truth on the violence, the injustices, the massacres and the torture,” he said of the 1954-1962 Algerian war which ended in Algerian independence and France’s withdrawal.
The speech came a day after Hollande was greeted by thousands of cheering Algerians on arrival in the capital Algiers. He called for an equal partnership between the two states but said he had not come “to repent or apologize”.
His conservative predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, had sought to review preferential visa arrangements from which thousands of Algerians benefit each year. But the Socialist Hollande said he wanted to make it easier for Algerians and French to travel between the two countries.
Around 700,000 Algerians live in France, which has Europe’s largest Muslim population, and French authorities issue some 200,000 visas to Algerians each year.
Reporting By Julien Ponthus and John Irish in Paris; Editing by Mark John, Brian Love and Mark Heinrich