Tunisian President Saied to visit Libya to back ‘democratic path’

Tunisian President Kais Saied’s visit – the first since 2012 – comes days after the unity government was sworn in.

Successive Tunisian governments strove to avoid publicly taking sides between Libya's rival administrations in the east and west [File: Karim Jaafar/AFP]

Tunisia’s President Kais Saied will visit Libya on Wednesday, his office said, days after the new Libyan Government of National Unity took the oath of office.

Saied’s office said the visit, the first of its kind since 2012, is to support the democratic path in Libya, which aims to hold national elections in December in a bid to end its decade-long conflict.

The visit also aims to “strengthen cooperation between Tunisia and Libya” and to develop “solidarity” for increased “stability and prosperity”, it added.

No details on Saied’s programme were provided.

Tunisia hosted UN-backed talks between representatives of Libya’s warring factions late last year that helped pave the way for the fragile breakthrough.

Before Libya’s descent into chaos following the 2011 overthrow of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising, the oil-rich country was a major customer for Tunisian farm produce and building materials as well as migrant labour.

The long years of conflict have resulted in prolonged border closures that have hit the volume of business, particularly in the informal trade in consumer goods that is an economic mainstay in border areas.

Successive Tunisian governments strove to avoid publicly taking sides between Libya’s rival administrations in the east and west that fought themselves to a bloody standstill before making way this week for the new UN-recognised unity government led by Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah.

The unexpectedly smooth transfer of power is seen as an important step to end the chaos in the oil-rich North African country.

Last year the current Tunisian president had accused the Islamist Ennahdha party, which forms the largest bloc in Parliament, of being too close to the UN-recognised Tripoli administration in its Turkish-backed battle against eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar.

The Tripoli administration backed by Turkey was finally able to defeat Haftar forces who aimed to capture territories in western Libya, including the capital city. The reconciliation talks were initiated after the failed bid by Haftar forces last year in April.

Source: News Agencies