ALGIERS, ALGERIA - German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Monday during a one-day visit to the country to discuss migration and the situation in neighboring Libya.
Algeria's official APS news agency reported the meeting happened in the presence Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and other government members.
The discussions take on particular significance before April's presidential election in Algeria. No candidate has yet emerged because everyone is waiting to learn whether Bouteflika, 81, partially paralyzed from a stroke and rarely seen in public, will seek a fifth term.
Bouteflika traveled to Switzerland earlier this month for medical check-ups.
Algerian television channels showed images of Merkel and Bouteflika talking together.
In a joint news conference, Merkel and Ouyahia said they agreed on a process to send about 700 Algerian migrants identified as illegally staying in Germany back to their country.
Ouyahia suggested that German airline Lufthansa should help with their transfer in addition to Air Algeria. Algerian authorities requested that no special flight is chartered, he said.
"Algeria will take back its children staying irregularly in Germany,'' he said.
Merkel said they also discussed the situation in neighboring Mali and Libya, without providing details.
Before the talks, Merkel visited the hilltop memorial to "martyrs'' who died in Algeria's war of independence with France that ended in 1962.
Germany was Algeria's fourth-largest commercial partner in 2017, with 200 German companies working in various sectors in the North African country.
This was Merkel's first visit to Algeria in a decade. Initially set for February 2017, it was postponed because Bouteflika was stricken with the flu.
Both countries also sought to deepen their economic cooperation.
Mohamed Saidj, professor of political science in Algiers, told The Associated Press that Merkel's meeting with Bouteflika provided the Algerian president an occasion to "show his adversaries that he keeps assuming normally the prerogatives of his office.''
Saidj stressed that Algeria has strong economic links with Germany especially in mechanical engineering, the auto industry, renewable energy, the chemical sector and pharmaceuticals.