Algeria closes airspace to French military and recalls ambassador

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The deepening diplomatic spat comes as France repositions thousands of its troops who are involved in the international fight against Islamist extremism in the southern Sahara. 

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Algeria has closed its airspace to French military flights and recalled its ambassador to France as a row between the two countries intensifies, reports Sky News.

The moves were prompted by what Algerian officials said were "inadmissible" comments attributed to French President Emmanuel Macron, first reported on Saturday.

Analysts say a ban on French forces using Algeria's airspace has the potential to affect an operation to hinder jihadists in the Sahel region of Africa, but the French government says it will have "no major consequences".

Paris is currently winding down Operation Barkhane, which has seen some 5,000 French troops deployed to Mali, but Mr Macron has said he want many of those soldiers to remain in West Africa, by reshaping the counterterrorism mission in the region.

It also comes at a sensitive time for France's relations with its former African colonies, with the 60th anniversary next March of the end of the Algerian War of Independence and Malian anger at the French pullout.

The recall of the ambassador is said to have occurred after reports of comments attributed by the Le Monde newspaper to Mr Macron about what was happening in the North African country.

Mr Macron is alleged to have told a group of young people with connections to France's former colony that Algeria's "politico-military system" had rewritten the history of its colonisation based on "a hatred of France" and also called into question whether an Algerian nation had existed before French colonial rule.

Read more of this report from Sky News

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