By Monia Ghanmi
The main border crossing between Libya and Tunisia resumed operations on Thursday (December 22nd), ending a 3-week closure over security concerns and allowing hundreds of cars to access the vital portal.
“Revolutionaries helped secure the border point over the past weeks and then handed over control of it to the interior ministry, which will be in charge from now on,” explained Libyan Interior Secretary Omar Khedhri.
Khedhri gave the signal to open the crossing after ensuring that new equipment was in place and regulations were met regarding security and customs control.
In turn, Tunisian authorities overseeing their side of the crossing expressed satisfaction with the restart of activity in a more systematic manner, confirming their readiness to secure the flow into Tunisia and to improve the services rendered and speed up procedures.
“Tunisia is ready to receive the various categories of brothers in Libya and to facilitate their task as their second home, and we are confident in good interaction with our fellow professionals in the management of the Libyan crossing,” said Tunisian customs official Salah Eloued.
Tunisian customs officers would work to facilitate transit activity between the two sides, calling on all specialists in crossings, whether in security, passports or customs, to achieve the bright future desired by citizens of both countries, the official added.
The border reopening was marked by ceremonies on both sides, during which the national anthems played and national flags fluttered.
The first vehicles to cross to the Tunisian territories were accompanied by a number of security officials and Libyan border point staff, holding up the flags of both countries.
The crossing, located 180km west of Tripoli and about 700km south of Tunis, is vital to the economy of the two countries. The majority of inhabitants in the border region make a living from informal trade between the two countries.
Residents of Tunisia’s Ben Guerdane border region were delighted after the crossing’s reopening and the restoration of law and order on the frontier. Traders in the area saw the occasion as a new start to bilateral relations.
Tunisian Tahar Chtioui said that the closure greatly hurt trade activity in the city of Ben Guerdane, adding that he hoped Libyan authorities would succeed in imposing full control over the border. Chtioui said that the presence of regular Libyan security personnel on the border would encourage movement between the two countries and open new, broad horizons for partnership and co-operation based on trust.
Libyan Rachid Sertaoui said that opening Ras Jedir was “the least that can be done”. The border “is important to both Libyans and Tunisians alike”, he said.
“I just hope everyone would respect relations of good neighbourliness and be attentive to the economic and social situation as well as people’s interests in both countries,” Sertaoui said.