Thousands in France mark low-key 1962 Algeria ceasefire anniversary
PARIS - Some 10,000 veterans marked the 50th anniversary of the ceasefire that ended Algeria's war of independence at a rally in Paris Monday, paying tribute to the 30,000 French troops who died in north Africa.
The French government announced last week that there would be no official ceremonies, but Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe attended a veterans' meeting at the landmark Arc de Triomphe.
Earlier Monday Defence Minister Gerard Longuet justified the low-key commemoration saying the 1962 Evian accords which ended the conflict had also brought "suffering" to those who left Algeria.
In Algeria, the anniversary of the signing of the accords and the ceasefire were marked locally but no official ceremonies were held there either.
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika did not attend any celebrations but in a message to Algerians called for a "massive turnout" at upcoming legislative elections.
"We must now prove with all our actions that we are worthy of them and that we go ahead with deeper reforms," he said.
At a conference at the foreign ministry Monday, Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia called the Evian accords an "honorable exit from more than seven years of a war of national liberation".
Algeria has announced a birthday bash for July 5, the anniversary of its declaration of independence from France.
Algerian historians today talk of 1.5 million Algerian victims of the war, while their French counterparts put the total number of deaths for both sides at 400,000.
France only recognised the Algerian conflict as a "war" in 1999.
About a million European descendants of settlers in Algeria left after independence, most of them to settle in France.
The signing of the peace agreement between France and the Algerian National Liberation Front in the French Alpine resort of Evian on March 18, 1962, was approved with a 90-percent majority in a French referendum the following month.
Relations between the countries have zigzagged since then as the war remained an emotive issue. The anniversary of the peace pact comes as both nations prepare for key elections.
French voters head to the polls on April 22 and May 6 to elect a president.
Algeria's May 10 election comes in the wake of reforms, criticised by the opposition, announced by President Bouteflika in a bid to preempt Arab Spring contagion in his country.
The performance of Islamist parties will be a closely-watched issue.