Calls mount for new Libya-Tunisia border crossing
By Monia Ghanmi for Magharebia in Tunis – 21/02/12
Libyan and Tunisian border residents have intensified calls for opening a new land passage.
For merchants, the move would ease trade exchanges. For travellers, it would reduce distances. For others, it would provide the first step toward long-desired integration and unity.
A convoy of Libyan and Tunisian activists last month marched to the Mashhad Salih border line. The area is located 80km from Tataouine and oversees the Libyan towns of Zintan and Taiji as well as Western Mountains.
"If this project is completed, I'm sure it will be a good port and a lifeline that will offer additional services to the two peoples, who are linked by a single future and a single fate," Abderrazak Mbarki told Magharebia. "It will be a fraternal link facilitating movement of goods and people and breathing new life into relations between the two countries."
The strength of Tunisian-Libyan trade requires opening another border to relieve pressure from the Ras Jedir and Dhiba crossings and ease the movement of traffic in order to speed up import and export operations, he said.
"The rising demand in Libya after the revolution and the increasing need for Tunisian products prompted everyone to go there, and this generated a sort of overcrowding on the existing crossings and lengthened the wait for travellers and merchants," Jalil Bargouth said.
A third border crossing will help achieve full and sustainable partnership between the two countries, he said. It will boost the volume of trade, redouble profits and thus improve social conditions for residents of the border areas.
Tunisia has been Libya's first economic partner for decades and their commercial transactions reach six billion dollars a year. Libya invests a significant part of its oil revenues in Tunisia, at nearly 20 billion dollars.
"The authorities of both countries must hasten to take the necessary measures and agree to focus on a third border gate to facilitate economic and social integration among all Libyan and Tunisian cities and to bring distances and services for the people of two countries closer," Adel Bourji agrred.
Libyan residents shared the sentiment.
"With this new crossing, which will connect our cities with Tunisian cities, we will shorten [travel time] and it will be a new window for these actors to take their share of development after years of marginalisation," said Mohamed Ben Abdel Adhim, from the Western Mountains. "Many will also benefit from this crossing due to its saving time, effort and suffering of travel."
There is a desire among the people of the city of Tataouine to extend bonds with their neighbours, the Libyans, said Tataouine resident Said Chalbi.
"Opening a traffic space directly linking the Tunisian city of Tataouine with the Libyan city of Zintan and the cities of Western Mountains is launching new relations that will enable removing the isolation of inhabitants of these border areas and create a sort of merger and integration between the two countries," he said.
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