!à `="justify">French President Nicolas Sarkozy paid an official visit to Algeria this week.
As of this day, painful memories of the colonial period persist between both countries. Following the Second World War France wanted to maintain control over Indochina (comprising Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam) and Algeria during the abolishment of its colonial empire. To this end France engaged in long wars in these areas. However, these wars were to result in defeat and consequently France’s withdrawal.
The hostilities that took place with the Algerians during the war of independence waged between 1954-1962 were particularly violent. Some have estimated that more than 1 million Algerians lost their lives in the course of this war. Following the independence of Algeria, economic relations were established between the two countries based mainly on petroleum and gas trade and the presence of Algerian workers in France. However, the treatment of Algerians at the hands of French soldiers and gendarmerie forces was not forgotten and in fact the suffering caused became more acute with time. As such, 40 years after these events transpired demands were voiced to the effect that France must apologize from Algeria.
As can be deduced, in order to suppress the large-scale demonstrations (each reminiscent of an uprising) waged in big cities from time to time on the part of North African Arabs, in order to further economic relations, and in particular to effectuate the Mediterranean Union Project proposed in 2005 by Sarkozy, France must retain close relations with Algeria. In fact, this was the aim of the French president’s recent visit to Algeria.
As expected therefore, the painful memories and suffering of the past featured prominently during the said visit. Sarkozy emphasized how the colonial system was unjust and that during the Algerian war of independence terrible murders were committed and that both sides suffered innumerable deaths. However, he did not apologize but stressed that there was a need to look to the future and not the past.
Stating that a joint evaluation of history needed to be conducted, Sarkozy proposed that both Algerian and French historians need to jointly analyze this painful period.
As can be seen, Sarkozy did not envisage extending neither an apology nor the payment of compensation for these past events. In actuality it is not appropriate to raise such demands after treaties ending wars have been signed. This being said, militant Armenians are striving to portray as genocide what in essence was a relocation that took place even further back in history. In tandem with this they are putting forth several demands that stretch as far as territorial claims on Turkey.
Against this backdrop, President Erdogan sent a letter to President Kocharian in April 2005 proposing that a joint historical commission comprising historians and other specialists from both countries be established for the purpose of analyzing, by way of archives, the events of 1915 and that the conclusions to be drawn are made public. It should be recalled however, that President Kocharian has not responded favorably to this proposal.
One can not help but notice that Sarkozy made the same proposal with respect to Algeria. In essence there really is no other way to go about dealing with controversial historical events.
On a final point it should be stressed that Sarkozy’s proposal weakens Armenia’s stance vis-à-vis rejecting the establishment of a joint historical commission and in fact has led to the latter proposal (supported by certain countries) to garner more appeal.