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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs