By Houda Trabelsi and Essam Mohamed
As Libya prepares to reopen the Tunisian border on Thursday (December 22nd), Tunisians and Libyans are appealing for greater brotherhood between the two nations.
Under the slogan, “Call of Ras Jedir and Dhiba”, five Tunisian parties and Libya’s February 17th Forces Rally Party, along with a group of civil society representatives and intellectuals, teamed up last Thursday for a visit to the Ras Jedir border crossing and a joint press conference.
The Tunisian parties included the National Alliance for Peace and Development (ANPP), the Reform and Development Party, the Movement of Popular Unity, the Secretariat Party and the Tunisia Dignity Party.
The move came in the wake of recent security chaos and violations from the Libyan side that led to the temporary closure of the crossing. The decision had a negative impact on the economy, given the strong commercial ties between the two countries, especially in the border town of Ben Guerdane.
However, the commander of border police on the Tunisian side said that the crossing had not been “actually closed for all cases”, confirming that the “decision only included the regular cases that can wait until technical and logistical issues have been worked out by the Libyan side”.
A group of Libyan revolutionaries and interior ministry officials welcomed the initiative. In a symbolic gesture that underscored the historical relations linking both nations, they received a bouquet of flowers from the organisers.
“The importance of the current stage for the Tunisian and Libyan peoples and their revolutions and the huge challenges facing them make it necessary to further boost bilateral relations between the two peoples and overcome all forms of differences and incidents that can’t in anyway affect the strong brotherly, historical and geographical relations between the two countries,” participant Mohamed Qumani said at the conference.
Skander Rekik, head of the ANPP political bureau, stressed the “need for the Tunisian and Libyan sides to adhere to good neighbourly relations based on bonds of brotherhood and common interests so as to further support the two countries in the building and foundation process following their two historic revolutions.”
He also called for expediting the “establishment of foundations of transitional justice and the principle of transparency”, and supporting “the political forces in the two countries so as to achieve democracy after the success of their revolutions and to fend off attempts to draw them backwards”.
“The Libyan people and their glorious revolution are proud of our Tunisian brothers,” said Abdul Hamid Boudabra, the official spokesperson of the February 17th Forces Rally Party.
Still, he cautioned against “falling in fitna that seeks to restore the former dictatorial regimes in both countries”. Boudabra called on all responsible entities to “work hard to further support bilateral relations between the Tunisian and Libyan brothers, especially in Ras Jedir, which is considered a meeting place for brothers”.
The full reopening of the Ras Jedir border, originally scheduled for Monday, was delayed. Omar al-Khadhrawi, Undersecretary of the Interior Ministry in Libya’s interim government, said the border would reopen on Thursday (December 22nd) after the completion of certain procedures that would enable the competent authorities to return to their duties.
Meanwhile, the Dhiba land crossing in southern Tunisia was opened last Thursday, fifteen days after its closure. Tunisian authorities closed the Ras Jedir border on November 30th after a Libyan gunman threatened Tunisian border guards.