Tunisian FM addresses region’s myriad crises

At conference held in Turkish capital, Khemaies Jhinaoui discusses the many challenges now facing the Middle East

Tunisian Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui delivered a speech at a Friday conference in Ankara devoted to the role of Tunisian diplomacy in facilitating democratic transition, challenges currently facing the region and Tunisia-Turkey relations.

Held at the Tunisian embassy, the event was organized by Turkey’s Public Administration Institute for Turkey and the Middle East.

“Tunisia is trying to establish a political paradigm based on mutual understanding, which is rewarding for both the religious and secular camps,” Jhinaoui said in his address.

“The Tunisian example shows that Islam and democracy can coexist; that moderate Islam can take part in the democratic process and in mainstream politics, and that there is no inherent opposition to the values of freedom and democracy in the Arab world,” he asserted.

Jhinaoui went on to point out that Tunisia was now ruled by a governing coalition in which different political camps were represented.

“We’re opposed to radicalism. But in order to fight it, we must provide our young people with jobs,” he said.

– Libya

Jhinaoui also warned that neighboring Libya could eventually become a training ground for terrorist groups if that country’s political crises weren’t resolved.

“Foreign intervention won’t bring peace to Libya; the Libyan people must decide their own future,” he said.

“If Libya is broken up, it will be a disaster,” the FM warned, citing war-torn Syria and Yemen as examples of worst-case scenarios.

– Gulf crisis

Tunisia’s top diplomat went on to assert that the political crisis now convulsing the Arab Gulf had only led to the region’s further polarization.

“Tunisia doesn’t want to take sides; we want to see a peaceful resolution of the dispute,” he said, commending mediation efforts now being conducted by the emir of Kuwait.

He added: “Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail and mutual trust can be reestablished.”

– Palestine

Noting that the Palestinian issue had been largely sidelined while Arab states remained divided among themselves, he said: “An independent Palestinian state must be established in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967.”

Jhinaoui went on to assert that terrorism — and the radical ideologies linked to it — was destined to fade with time and that moderate Islam would be the last ideology standing after what he described as the “battle of ideas”.

He also thanked Ankara for its positive role in the region, stressing Tunisia’s desire to improve economic relations with Ankara.

“Turkey is a brother country,” he said. “We’re very excited about our long-term partnership.”

*Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this report from Ankara

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