Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi yesterday stressed the depth of bilateral relations between his country and Qatar, describing them as ‘historic’, ‘close’ and ‘renewed’.
In an exclusive interview to Qatar News Agency (QNA) in Tunis, ahead of his official visit to Doha tomorrow, Essebsi said Tunisia attaches great importance to develop co-operation with Qatar while Doha is interested in further promoting bilateral co-operation, stressing joint commitment to expand bilateral ties.
The Tunisian president expressed hope that his three-day visit to Qatar would enhance co-operation between the two countries and expand bilateral relations.
Throughout history relations between Tunisia and Qatar have been strong and they have vast potential for further co-operation in various fields for mutual benefit, he said, referring to the “very important” co-operation in various fields which placed Qatar at the forefront of the GCC member-states providing support for Tunisia.
Tunisia and Qatar are working continuously to achieve greater convergence and understanding as well as exchanging opinions and views on many issues of common concern, he added.
He explained that during his official visit to Qatar for the first time since he took office a number of issues of common concern will be discussed, mainly the activation of agreements and memorandums of understanding signed at the meetings of the Qatar-Tunisia Joint Higher Committee, which convened in Doha under the chairmanship of the Tunisian prime minister and HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani in December.
The visit will also witness the signing of new agreements in the economic, security and various other fields, he added.
In this regard, the Tunisian president praised Qatar’s strong and continued support to Tunisia, noting that Qatar was among the first Arab countries to recognise the Tunisian revolution.
He described the Qatari support for Tunisia as ‘distinguished’, noting Tunisia’s keenness to boost co-operation with Qatar.
President Essebsi said that co-operation between countries like Qatar and Tunisia has scope for further development, thus his visit to Doha will increase and expand this co-operation, and concretise the ties between the two countries.
He added that Tunisia looks forwards to a visit by HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to Tunisia to culminate these relations and contribute to the advancement of Tunisian-Qatari areas of co-operation to a greater level.
President Essebsi pointed to the matching positions between Tunisia and Qatar on several regional and international issues of common concern, most importantly the Libyan crisis which directly affects the situation in Tunisia.
President Essebsi also expressed pride at Qatar’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup 2022, the first Arab nation to host the tournament.
“In Tunisia, we support Qatar wholeheartedly for hosting the 2022 World Cup and we are confident that Doha will win the bet and organise an extraordinary global event, not only for Qatar but for all Arab countries,” he said.
He expressed the readiness to employ Tunisia’s experiences and competencies to contribute to the success of Doha’s preparations to host the 2022 World Cup.
With regard to Qatar’s candidate to the post of the director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), Dr Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kuwari, adviser at the Emiri Diwan, President Essebsi affirmed Tunisia’s support to this candidacy, wishing success for the Qatari candidate.
The Tunisian president stressed that his country is currently more concerned with the promotion of its relations with the Arab and Islamic world, taking into account its relationship with the European Union which imposed by Tunisia’s geopolitical location.
“Since I assumed the presidency in 2014, I was keen to develop Tunisia’s relations with the Arab world and in this context I visited several Arab countries. The visit to the State of Qatar comes in this framework as well,” he said.
On Libya, President Essebsi said that the crises is directly affecting Tunisia considering the hundreds of kilometres boarders between the two countries. He reiterated his government’s support to the Libyan National Accord Government.
On Syria, he described the situation as a catastrophe, pointing that the destruction there has reached extreme.
The only loser in the Syrian crisis is the Arab world, he said expressing regret that Syria has become a point where all the negative things happen, especially with foreign military interventions.
On Yemen, President Beji Caid Essebsi said that Yemen’s neighbouring countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, have the right to take pre-emptive action, to avoid the expansion of the crisis to their territories. “Therefore all the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states have united towards this end,” he added.
He stressed that Iran must deal with neighbours in a civilised manner. “He who prepares for the future must be in an atmosphere of co-operation and not in the atmosphere of a collision,” he stressed.
Regarding the challenges faced by Tunisia, President Essebsi said terrorism is one of the biggest current challenges, noting that the phenomenon has taken on global dimensions and no country is immune from it.
The Tunisian president hailed the great progress made by his country in the fight against terrorism, adding that through proactive operations Tunisia has managed to prevent terror acts and eradicated and arrested a number of terrorists.
President Essebsi said that the difficult economic situation experienced by Tunisia was another challenge, especially youth unemployment, including the difficulty faced by university graduates. However, this situation is not inevitable, he said, stressing that he along with his government are working to overcome the difficult economic situation.
Democratic transition requires external and internal investments, though investments only come when an appropriate climate is in place, he said, pointing out that winning the fight against terrorism is topping the country’s efforts, because security is linked to investments.
With regard to the political scene in Tunisia, the Tunisian president said that his country was a latecomer to democracy, expressing hope that the political parties will be ready to contest the upcoming elections, including the municipal election which is scheduled for March next year.
President Essebsi noted that the experience of partnership between the Nidaa Tunis party, the first winner in the legislative elections, and the Ennahda party, the second winner, was dictated by the need for coexistence and consensus.
“That does not mean we agree on everything, but we deal with each other on the basis of the acceptance of dissenting opinion. Tunisia is the only country that has succeeded in this approach which I personally support,” he said.
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