By Houda Mzioudet.
Tunis, 15 February 2015:
Tunisia will continue to be neutral towards the Libya in the current crisis, Tunisian Ministry of . . .[restrict]Foreign Affairs spokesman Mokhtar Chaouachi has said. He was also reported adding that Tunisia planned to open a consular presence in Libya again.
Chaouachi denied that parties in the Libyan conflict, especially Libya Dawn, had been responsible for “inflaming of the situation in the border towns of Dhehiba and Ben Guerdane”. His statement came in response to reports suggesting the involvement of Libyan political groups in tensions on the ground at Libyan border crossings as a result of the tax imposed on all foreigners exiting at country.
He also discussed the crisis of the kidnapped Tunisian journalists in Libya, Sofiane Chourabi and Nadhir Gtari, stating that no information on their fate or their whereabouts were available. The Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs plans going to send a delegation to Libya to follow up closely on the case, Chaouachi added.
His statement comes after the border towns of Dhehiba and Ben Guerdane says protests last week over the exit tax which left one person dead and others injured. Tunisia has now decided to suspend the tax for all Maghreb citizens following protests.
Libya reciprocated by imposing a similar tax on Tunisians entering Libya but this has not yet been revoked.
Meanwhile, a Ben Guerdane official told the Libya Herald that a group of activists in the town had today tried to force the closure of the Ras Jedir border crossing until binding solutions to the outstanding problems which satisfied all the parties had been reached. These had included civil society activists, merchants and trades union members who had had the support of the town’s crisis committee. He said that National Route No. 1 had been partly closed at Ben Guerdane, with trucks prevented by protesters from passing through. They want the Tunisian authorities to force Libya immediately abolish its tax.
“Border police told the protesters that they cannot close the border crossing, but the latter warned that they will not allow any Libyan vehicle, including ambulances, to continue their trip once they have crossed the border,” the Ben Guerdane witness added.
Tunisian government officials are said to be still negotiating with their Libyan counterparts the possibility of reviewing or cancelling the taxes imposed on both Tunisian and Libyan travellers. [/restrict]