TRIPOLI, 17 March 2021 – Tunisian President Kais Saied is visiting Libya, to show his support for the new interim Government of National Unity, set up with the help of the United Nations.
The Tunisian President’s trip aims to show “Tunisia’s support for the democratic process in Libya” and for greater “stability and prosperity”, Saied’s office said Wednesday in a statement.
Tunisia, along with Switzerland, played a role in the UN-brokered talks that led to the government, notably hosting the Libyan Dialogue Forum which agreed a formula to bring unity and stability to Libya.
Saied’s visit is the first by a Tunisian leader to Libya since 2012.
Saied was welcomed at the airport in Tripoli by Presidential Council Chairman Mohamed al-Manfi and was scheduled to meet later with Libya’s new interim Prime Minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah.
Dbeibah’s newly-sworn-in government is tasked with governing Libya until UN-backed elections are held next December 24.
The decade-long armed conflict in Libya has negatively impacted the Tunisian economy, according to World Bank data.
The Tunisian economy shrank 13 percent between 2011 and 2017, according to the World Bank, with youth unemployment persisting at a high 35 percent.
Libya was once a prosperous neighbor, providing jobs for thousands of Tunisian migrants, and buying off a lot of Tunisian farm products in addition to other goods.
Towns in southeastern Tunisia like Ben Guerdane, which used to serve as an entrepot for goods smuggled or imported from Libya, have been hit by an economic depression since the toppling and assassination of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Over 700 stores in Ben Guerdane alone have closed since 2011 as supplies vanished, prices soared and cross-border trade between the two neighbors collapsed.
The Tunisian government has also said extremists have used lawless Libya as a staging area for a series of bloody attacks in Tunisia.