News / Middle East

FM: Arab Spring Will Fail Unless Tunisia Transition Succeeds

FILE - Tunisia's Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi speaks during a news conference in Tunis.
FILE - Tunisia's Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi speaks during a news conference in Tunis.
Reuters
Tunisia said on Wednesday that it needs more help from its European partners in its transition to democracy because if it fails no other country in the Arab region will succeed.
 
During a visit to Paris to boost economic ties and seek help to bolster security to fight Islamist militants, foreign minister Mongi Hamdi said his country had done “exemplary” work to move towards elections by the end of the year, but more support was needed.
 
“We, Tunisians, have done our job, exemplary work,” Hamdi said at a news conference with his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius. “Now we're waiting for our partners to come and help us accomplish our mission for a democratic transition.”
 
After a crisis last year brought on by the killing of two opposition leaders, Tunisian factions finally adopted a new constitution in January and the ruling Islamists stepped aside for a caretaker administration to govern until elections.
 
While the North African country has advanced towards democracy since the 2011 revolution that toppled President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, other countries such as Libya and Egypt have seen unrest since overthrowing their long-ruling autocratic rulers.
 
“Tunisia is not less important than other countries in Europe such as Greece or Ukraine, so it's in the interest of everybody that Tunisia succeeds in this transition,” Hamdi said. “We must ensure that Tunisia is a success story because if it doesn't then no other Arab country will succeed.”
 
France, the former colonial power and one of the country's main economic partners, has come under fire since 2011 from Tunisians for appearing indifferent throughout the transition process. But French officials say Paris has remained low key to avoid accusations of interfering in Tunis' internal affairs.
 
French President Francois Hollande traveled to Tunisia in January for the constitutional ceremony, a move diplomats said amounted to a show of confidence from Paris.
 
“If there is one country that can get out of the crisis it's Tunisia, so we are supporting not only with our hearts, but our minds,” Fabius said.
 
He said would spend his summer holidays in Tunisia to set an example for thousands of French tourists that have shied away from the north African country since the 2011 revolution.
 
Tourism accounts for 8 percent of Tunisia's gross domestic product and its tourism minister told Reuters on Wednesday that renewed political stability would enable record tourism this year.
 
“It's in our interest that we manage to have transitions in the Arab world that succeed,” Fabius said.
 
French diplomats said Paris would press ahead with pledges to provide 500 million euros ($645 million) in loans and grants to support Tunisia and write off 60 million euros of Tunisian debt to be converted into investment projects.
 
The two sides also agreed to speed up the release of millions of dollars worth of assets frozen in France since Ben Ali departed, something that has repeatedly been held up.

Fighting militants
 
However, Mongi and Fabius both acknowledged serious challenges threatening the transition, notably that of Islamist militancy and rising insecurity in neighboring Libya.
 
“Tunisia is extremely worried by what's going on in Libya,” said a French diplomatic source. “Libya has goodwill, but brigades, not the government, are controlling the border.”
 
Fabius said the two sides were in advanced talks to provide replacement parts for helicopters that would be used to fight militants in the mountainous Jebel Chaambi region in southern Tunisia.
 
Tunisian militants have used the turmoil in neighboring Libya to get weapons and training.
 
The rise of ultra-conservative Salafi movements who promote the establishment of an Islamic state has alarmed many in Tunisia, one of the most secular nations in the Arab world.
 
Tunisian forces have tried to crack down on the banned Islamist militant movement Ansar al-Sharia, which Washington lists as a foreign terrorist group.
 
Hamdi said equipment such as helicopters and night vision goggles were crucial: “We had not expected this type of terrorism would be imported into Tunisia.”

You May Like

In China, Mixed Signals on Ebola Controls

How authorities are monitoring at-risk individuals remains unclear, including whether there are quarantines for Chinese health workers returning from West Africa More

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Electionsi
X
October 31, 2014 4:10 AM
Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid