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France promises to speed up handover of colonial archives and clean up nuclear test sites in Algeria

France has promised to speed up the handover of its colonial archives to Algeria, and to clean up the sites where it conducted nuclear tests in the Sahara Desert in the 1960s, the ministry of foreign affairs in Algiers has announced.

The announcement was made at the end of a meeting on Wednesday of the 9th session of the Algeria-France political consultations in the Algerian capital. The meeting was chaired by the Secretaries General of the Algerian and French Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Amar Belani and Anne-Marie Descotes, with the participation of representatives from several sectors in each country.

The consultations were in preparation for the upcoming visit of Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to Paris in May, at the invitation of his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron.

There was no immediate French comment on the Algerian announcement.

According to Algerian officials, France still holds 98 per cent of their country’s archives, which date back to the colonial era which lasted from 1830 to 1962, and inevitably go back to the Ottoman era that preceded it.

Between 1960 and 1966, the French colonial authorities conducted a series of nuclear explosions in the Algerian Sahara, four of which were in the atmosphere and thirteen were underground, according to French officials. Algerian historians and officials insist that the number is greater and that the effects still threaten the health of the regional population and the safety of the environment.

At the end of December, Tebboune called on France to clean up its nuclear waste at the test sites in Tamanrasset and Reggane, and to take care of the victims of the tests in the area.

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