France has formally handed back 26 artifacts that it looted from what is now Benin in 1892 when it was governed under the French empire.

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed his Beninese counterpart, Patrice Talon, to Paris to formally sign over the artifacts.

President Talon said he felt “overwhelming emotion” at the return of the items, describing them as the “soul” of his country, according to the AFP news agency.

Meanwhile, President Macron said the move represented “a symbolic, moving and historic moment”, according to the same agency.

The artifacts include a royal throne, statues, palace doors, dance staff, and altars according to French news site France24.

They will be shipped back to Benin in the coming days, it adds.

The return of the objects is seen as a wider move on the part of France to build a new relationship with Africa.

Last year French MPs voted overwhelmingly to return looted African artifacts to both Senegal and Benin.