ALGIERS (Reuters) -- President Emmanuel Macron visited Algeria Wednesday where he pressed for a new chapter in relations and said he would not be held hostage by France's colonial past, in remarks published by a local newspaper.
The French leader was in the capital Algiers for talks with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and senior officials as he looked to bolster social and trade ties between the countries.
It is a relationship scarred by the trauma of the 1954-1962 independence war, during which hundreds of thousands of Algerians were killed and torture was used on both sides.
Bouteflika, 80, belongs to the war veterans who fought against French occupation and has been in ill-health since suffering a stroke in 2013. Macron is widely seen as his last chance of obtaining an official apology for the past.
But the French leader did not go any further than his predecessor, Francois Hollande, who sought a more conciliatory tone and described his country's colonization of Algeria as "brutal and unfair", but stopped short of apologizing.
"I know the history, but I am not a hostage of the past. We have a shared memory and we need to accept that, but I want, out of respect for our history, to turn to the future," Macron told El Watan newspaper.
Economic ties between the two countries have marginally progressed since 2012 and France is now behind China as the main partner. Annual trade stands at about 8 billion euros compared with 6.36 billion five years ago.
More than 400,000 Algerians are given visas for France annually, almost twice as many as in 2012.
While walking through downtown Algiers near the university on Wednesday, young Algerians came out in force, calling out: "Visas, Please! Some others called out: "Go home! We don't want you here."
Franco-Algerian relations are a sensitive subject in France. Macron angered many at home when he described France's colonial rule as a "crime against humanity" on a visit to Algeria during his presidential campaign.
"The new relationship that I want to build with Algeria and that I propose to Algerians is to build an equal partnership, built on frankness, reciprocity and ambition," he told the paper.
Some Algerians disagreed. "Excuse me but France will have to apologize for the martyrs we lost," said a woman who gave her name as Nadia.