France backs new Tunisia government
By Monia Ghanmi for Magharebia in Tunis – 09/01/12
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe last week urged Tunisia to uphold human rights and pledged France's full backing for the new government.
"We fully support the democratic process taking place here in Tunisia because it is based on our shared values: the rule of law and respect for public and private freedoms, human rights and the rights of women," he said during his two-day visit to Tunis, which ended on Friday (January 6th).
Juppe added that his country was not "worried" about respect for these principles in Tunisia and voiced confidence in Tunisia's democratic transition.
France's top diplomat met with Tunisian Interim Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, President Moncef Marzouki, Constituent Assembly Speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar and his counterpart Rafik Abdessalam.
Commenting on the electoral gains of Islamist parties in the region, he said that "Islam and democracy are not mutually exclusive and indeed are in agreement".
However, France "condemns violence and does not accept extremism in its various forms", Juppe added.
"The friendship between France and Tunisia has become stronger than ever," he said, adding that his country will work to establish "a really equal partnership" with Tunisia.
He explained that this partnership is of important political dimensions, as the experience of democratic transition in Tunisia can be a model in the region.
In terms of economic co-operation, France seeks to help Tunisia achieve growth, the foreign minister vowed.
The French government developed an action plan to accompany Tunisia in its course of development, he announced. The approach aims to spur French investments in Tunisia and encourage French nationals to pick Tunisia as an attractive tourist destination that provides safe and stable conditions.
France last April vowed to provide material aid to Tunisia valued at 350 million euros.
"The French promises have been fulfilled so far, where we spent 180 million euros, with the remaining portion to be spent in 2012," he said.
For his part, the Tunisian foreign minister expressed satisfaction with the convergence of views between the two countries, pointing out that there is agreement from both sides to develop economic and cultural co-operation in the coming period.
Abdessalam revealed that there is a programme to establish a Tunisian-French-Libyan partnership, whereby Tunisia and France would be involved in the reconstruction of Libya.
A few days before Juppe's visit, the Tunisian president expressed hope of seeing a trans-Mediterranean unity between people and cultures, not only states. Marzouki also said he hoped that French politicians would not use the "Islamophobia card" in this year's presidential campaign.
"On this side of the Mediterranean, our peoples are waking up to the values of democracy, human rights and tolerance, and we will do everything possible to further strengthen the historical ties between France and Tunisia," he said.
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