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French senator calls for quid pro quo for Algerian access to national archive

French army round up Muslims who could not establish their identity in the Casbah, Algiers, for interrogation. [Central Press/Getty Images]
French army round up Muslims who could not establish their identity in the Casbah, Algiers, for interrogation. [Central Press/Getty Images]

A French senator has called on the government to allow Algerian access to colonial archives in France, but only if there is reciprocal access for French researchers to Algeria's colonial-era archive. The latter, insists Stéphane Le Rudulier, is not easy now, hence his call for the intervention of the government with its Algerian counterpart.

Le Rudulier made this clear in correspondence with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. He added that this could begin by granting Algerians an entry visa to France, with the aim of serving the interests of the French people above all else.

The senator said that the "stolen" archives in France, as the Algerian newspaper Eshorouk describes them, should be open to interested Algerians either online or at the headquarters of the central archive in Aix-en-Provence. Documents involved include some dating back to the colonial era and the Ottoman period linked to Algerian history that were seized by the French months before the North African country was granted its independence.

The Algerian archive is among the contentious issues that the Algerian and French authorities have been unable to agree on, as each consider the documents to be their property. As far as Algeria is concerned, the archive is an issue of Algerian heritage alone, a view supported by international law, which obliges former colonial countries to hand over confiscated documents and artefacts to their original owners. Algeria recently threatened to sue France in the competent international courts if it continues to refuse to cooperate in this regard.

The trade-off which Senator Le Rudulier suggested overtly to the French government and implicitly to Algeria, came after the failure of a French initiative on the French-Algerian colonial "memory" led by President Emmanuel Macron in cooperation with his Algerian counterpart, which relied on a report prepared by French historian Benjamin Stora. When released, the report was met with widespread indignation in Algeria, rejected by the government and people alike.

READ: Building statue of Algeria emir in France rejected by family members

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