Hollande quip about Algeria sparks diplomatic row

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French president offered his 'sincere regrets' for causing any offence over a joke that his interior minister had survived a trip to Algeria this month.

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President François Hollande has sparked a diplomatic spat with Algeria after he joked in a speech to French Jewish leaders that his interior minister had made it back home from a trip this month to the north African state “safe and well, which is saying a lot", reports The Telegraph.

Mr Hollande was making a speech to the CRIF representative council of French Jewish institutions when he made the comment about Interior Minister Manuel Valls’ trip this month to Algeria, which suffered a civil war in the 1990s in which more than 150,000 people died and which is still prone to deadly attacks by an Al Qaeda offshoot.

“Hollande mocks Algeria in front of the Jews,” was the front-page headline in one Algerian newspaper at the weekend, while the former French colony’s Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra said on Saturday the remark was a “regrettable incident”.

Mr Valls was part of a French delegation led by Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault that travelled to Algeria as part of an effort to boost trade ties with the oil-rich country.

The president on Sunday offered his “sincere regrets” for any offence that might have been caused by his joke. His office said in a statement that “everyone knows the friendly feelings Francois Hollande holds for Algeria and the great respect he has for its people,” and that he would personally relay his regrets to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Mr Hollande had previously enjoyed a good press in Algeria, where he did an internship for several months in 1978 when he was a student at ENA, France’s elite school for training top civil servants and industrial leaders.

Read more of this report from The Telegraph.

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