In Paris, an impressive military parade was held on Avenue des Champs-Elysees, with military delegations marching from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde.
More than 80 countries were invited to participate this year, which marks the 100th anniversary of World War I. Algeria was among the countries invited, and their addition sparked controversy.
France's far right objected to Algeria's presence, citing grievances over the Algerian War of Independence that forced French citizens out of the North African country. Some Algerians reportedly took umbrage with the invitation as well, pointing out that that at the time, its citizens were colonial subjects and had been conscripted to fight for France.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian responded to the far right's objections by emphasizing that 130,000 North Africans fought for France in World War I and more than 25,000 of them "gave up their lives for our country." Algeria's exclusion, Le Drian maintained, would have been "shocking."
Algeria's participation in this year's Bastille Day celebration is, two French officers wrote in Le Figaro, an opportunity for reconciliation:
"This participation is highly symbolic and should be for France and Algeria an exceptional occasion to seal the reconciliation so long-awaited and hoped for between our two countries. After the tearing apart that happened after more than a half century ago, we think it's time to write a new page in history for Franco-Algerian relations."
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