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Tunisia announces presidential visit to Libya, first time since 2012

Published: Updated:

Tunisia’s President Kais Saied is to travel to Libya Wednesday for the first visit by a head of state between the neighboring countries since 2012, his office announced, in a boost for its new UN-backed administration.

Saied’s visit aims to show “Tunisia’s support for the democratic process in Libya” following the swearing in on Monday of new interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah on a pledge to reunite the divided country and lead it to December elections, the president’s office said.

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The statement did not specify who Saied would meet.

Tunisia hosted UN-backed talks between representatives of Libya’s warring factions late last year that helped pave the way for the fragile breakthrough.

Before Libya’s decent into chaos following the 2011 overthrow of former Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising, oil-rich Libya was a major customer for Tunisian farm produce and building materials as well as migrant labor.

The long years of conflict have resulted in prolonged border closures that have hit the volume of business, particularly in the informal trade in consumer goods that is an economic mainstay in border areas.

Successive Tunisian governments strove to avoid publicly taking sides between Libya’s rival administrations in the east and west that fought themselves to a bloody standstill before making way this week for the new UN-backed unity government led by Dbeibah.

The common front fell apart briefly last year when the current Tunisian president accused the extremist Ennahda party, which forms the largest bloc in parliament, of being too close to the authorities in western Libya in their Turkish-backed war against Libyan General Khalifa Haftar.

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