French president makes historic visit to Algeria

03 March 2003
French President Jacques Chirac arrived in Algiers on 2 March to an enthusiastic reception, with an estimated 1.5 million people turning out to greet him. The official visit is the first by a French leader since Algerian independence in 1962. Later in the day, Chirac and his Algerian counterpart President Bouteflika issued a declaration laying the foundations for improved relations between Paris and its former colony. They agreed to hold annual summits for the heads of state and biannual meetings of foreign ministers, while in economics, Chirac promised to promote French investment in Algeria and help foster economic reform in the country. He is accompanied on the three-day visit by the heads of TotalFinaElf, Alstomand Airbus. On the thorny issue of immigration, a working group was established to examine visas for Algerians wishing to relocate to France and the return of Algerians currently resident there. The concluding statement affirmed the 'rightful place in French society' of its 2 million Algerians. A concrete agreement was reached for Paris's international development agency to fund water, housing and banking projects to the tune of $103 million. President Chirac is to make a symbolic gesture of reconciliation during the trip when he lays a wreath to commemorate Algerians who lost their lives fighting for independence.

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