By Michel Cousins.
Tripoli, 7 January 2013:
Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali was in Tripoli today, Monday, for talks with Prime Minister Ali . . .[restrict]Zeidan on border security and developing closer economic ties.
Speaking at a press conference after their talks, Zeidan said he had ordered the Interior and Defence ministers to reopen and secure the border crossing at Ras Jedir. It has been closed on the Libyan side for more than two weeks to truck drivers.
Zeidan also confirmed that there would be a tripartite summit comprising himself, Jebali and the Algerian Prime Minister, Abdelmalek Sellal, in the border town of Ghadames on Saturday to discuss common border security concerns.
Jebali was met at Tripoli’s Mitiga airbase by Zeidan along with Foreign Minister-designate and International Cooperation Minister Mohamed Abdulaziz, Interior Minister Ashour Shuwail, Economy Minister Mustafa Mohammed Abufunas, Defense Minister Mohammed Barghathi and Chief of General Staff Yousef Mangoush.
Jebali was accompanied by several members of his government including the Ministers of Defence Abdelkarim Zebidi, Foreign Affairs Minister Rafik Abdessalem, Interior Ali Laarayedh and the Minister in charge of economic issues, Ridha Saidi, as well as by the Army Chief of Staff Rachid Ammar.
At the press conference Zeidan spoke of a long history of close relations between the two countries. The talks, he said, had covered border security, economic links, trade and investment as well as collaboration on health and education.
They also discussed the issue of the five-member Arab Maghreb Union. After years in abeyance it was reactivated last February with a Foreign Ministers’ summit and there was supposed to have been a full heads-of-government Maghreb summit in Tunisia last month. However, it did not take place.
Referring to Saturday’s summit, he said that it would focus on border security and clamping down on smuggling, particularly of weapons and drugs. Referring to his visit to Algeria last month, he said that, for their part, Libya and Algeria had already agreed what needed to be done — to control the smuggling.
Jebali concurred, saying that he had contacted the Algerian Prime Minister and they had agreed to collaborate in controlling the borders and work to stop smuggling.
He added that Tunisia’s relationship with Libya was very important and had to be further developed. The media, he added, had a very important role in helping that happen.
Referring to attacks on Libyans vehicles on the Tunisian side of the border because of Libyan controls on Tunisian drivers crossing it, Jebali said that, regrettably, they had taken place and apologized. He pointed out, however, that these were the actions of individuals and that some Libyans too had attacked Tunisian vehicles.
“We cannot blame all the Tunisians and all the Libyans for that”, he said.
The Libyan authorities were to have reopened the border crossing on Saturday. It did not happen and as a result there were clashes on Saturday night in the Tunisian border town of Ben Guerdane which is heavily dependent on cross-border trade.