French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Algeria on Wednesday for a one-day working visit aimed at boosting security and economic co-operation.
The French president said that returning African art and historical artifacts now in France to their rightful owners is one of his priorities.
"This is the first time a French president has addressed the issue head-on and expressed his willingness to go in the direction of restitution", wrote Marie-Cecile Zinsou, creator of the contemporary art foundation Zinsou in Cotonou, on her Facebook page. He laid a wreath at a monument in central Algiers to those killed in the war, and walked through the center of the capital, talking with passersby.
Macron then planned to make a stop at Algiers' most prestigious bookshop.
They were to discuss the situation in Algeria's troubled neighbour, Libya, as well as co-operation on the fight against extremism in the Sahel region, according to the French presidency.
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During this year's presidential election campaign, Macron caused a row in France when he called French colonialism a "crime against humanity" while visiting Algiers.
The comments prompted controversy in France, where the topic remains a source of tension. People with ties to Christian and Jewish families who moved to French colonies in North Africa before being expelled when the countries won independence held protests.
"I now wish we can look together toward the future, with respect to our history", 39-year-old Macron said in an interview to Algerian daily El Watan, stressing he is from a generation which hasn't known the colonial period.
Algerian War Veterans Minister Tayeb Zitouni said recently that he had great hopes for the restitution in light of Macron's statements during his previous visit.
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