By Essam Mohamed
Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki visited Libya on Monday (January 2nd) for bilateral talks on several issues, including the prosecution of former Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Ali Al-Mahmoudi.
“Libya is demanding the return of criminals to Libya to be prosecuted, just as we are demanding the return of [ousted Tunisian president Zine El Abidine] Ben Ali from Saudi Arabia to be tried,” Marzouki said at a joint press conference in Tripoli with National Transitional Council chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil.
“Such demands are the right of the Libyans. We are a nation that respects the law and endorses institutions,” Marzouki said.
The Tunisian president asked for patience, saying his nation was seeking “guarantees for a fair trial and that there will be no physical harm”.
Marzouki added that a general pardon would be issued February 14th for all prisoners, hoping that it would include Libyan prisoners in Tunisia and that judicial agreements between the two countries would be activated. The Libya visit marks Marzouki’s first trip abroad since taking office last month.
“No two nations can be closer or more understanding of one another than the Libyans and the Tunisians. They are twin nations and they need each other,” Marzouki said. “If France and Germany, despite their different languages and religions, were able to create unity among themselves, how can Libya and Tunisia fail to?”
“So, I think we will push the peoples of the Maghreb region toward integration,” the Tunisian leader added. Marzouki will later visit to Algeria, followed by Morocco and then Mauritania in hopes of reviving the Arab Maghreb Union. Marzouki also touched on the broader theme of Arab unity.
Marzouki noted that Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali is due to visit Libya with a number of ministers who will meet with their Libyans counterparts to discuss co-operation deals before later moving on towards integration.
“Libyans are honoured by President Marzouki’s visit, which is his first and at the beginning of the new year,” commented Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the National Transitional Council (NTC). “We are counting on the relations between the two countries. There are more than 150 agreements, with only a few of them activated. Many are going to be activated in the future.”
“The humane position of the Tunisian people embodies the foundation of integration and greater than ever before,” Abdel Jalil added. “During this visit, we are counting on civil society and on businessmen to continue their co-operation in the field of small and medium-sized industries, as well as cultural and economic integration, away from the government, not to mention the future demands of the civil society and universities so as to benefit from the Tunisian experience.”
Regarding security and recent incidents on the two countries’ shared border, Abdel Jalil said that “they were individual acts which we apologised for, and are presently offering our apologies afresh. We are currently integrating rebels into society and I think such incidents will not be repeated. All revolutions have their consequences and claims. Some, however, may seek to mar their image.”
“Libyans at present are basking in freedom,” Abdel Jalil said.