29 December 2011

Tunisia: Libya Will Be Marzouki's First Official Visit

President Moncef Marzouki announced on the day following his election that Libya will be the destination of his first official international visit. Marzouki will be traveling to Libya January 2, 2012.

"He received an official invitation to visit Libya. The visit aims to show support for the Libyan Revolution and to reinforce Tunisian-Libyan relations. He will meet Libyan officials and businessmen," said Imed Dayni, head of the presidential bureau.

Marzouki's choice to visit Libya initially came as a surprise. The trip represents a break from the diplomatic tradition of former Tunisian Presidents, who paid their first official visits to Algeria. He will be accompanied by a large ministerial delegation. Dayni explained that Marzouki opted to visit Libya first due to the shared transitional experience the two countries are undergoing, which requires increased coordination between Tunisia and Libya.

However, Dayni assured that this decision is not an indication of a negative turn in the relationship between Algeria and Tunisia. "This visit in no way indicates a disregard for Tunisian-Algerian relations. The President intends to visit Algeria in the near future, as we have received an invitation from the Algerian government. Algeria is an important neighbor of ours, and it plays a central role in Tunisia's foreign relations," Dayni stated.

Marouki's visit to Ethiopia on January 28, 2011, to attend the African Union (AU) Summit, has yet to be confirmed.

In a phone conversation with Jean Ping, head of AU, Marzouki emphasized the role that Africa represents in Tunisia's identity, stating that, "it [Africa] constitutes Tunisia's cultural extension."

The last visit made by a Tunisian president to a sub-Saharan African country dates back to 1973.

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