Magharebia (Washington DC)

Libya Plans New Land Crossing With Tunisia

Tunis — Despite security concerns, the Libyan government will soon open a new border crossing into Tunisia.

The move approved at the week-end comes in response to demands from citizens of both countries and in support of economic and trade exchanges between the neighbours.

The new Tiji-Mashhad Salih frontier passage will be midway between the current border crossings of Ras Jedir and Dhiba-Wazin, The checkpoint area overlooks Zintan and Tiji, as well as the Nafusa Mountains. On the Tunisian side, it is 80km from Tataouine.

"We waited for the opening of this crossing for years," Libyan trader Mohammed Ben Dahmane told Magharebia.

"It will create a commercial traffic that will contribute to the creation of new job opportunities for unemployed in both countries. It will also build an intimate relationship between the Tunisian south and the west of Libya," he said.

Overcrowding on the existing crossings has lengthened the wait for travelers and merchants on both sides, Tunisian activist Jalil Bargouth agreed.

"A third border crossing will help achieve full and sustainable partnership between the two countries," he said. "It will boost the volume of trade, redouble profits and thus improve social conditions for residents of the border areas," he added.

Mostapha Mohamed Bessnoun of the Mashhad Salih executive committee confirmed that the crossing would relieve pressure on the two other passages and serve as a vital trading route.

The new Tiji- Mashad Salih post will also enable security units to strengthen border controls, which will help reduce illegal immigration and smuggling, the Tunisian official added.

The flow of goods and people across the shared frontier has continued to grow, even as both countries have faced security threats.

In Libya, however, Nalut local council chief Saleh Salem Warregh voiced concerns about unresolved security issues at the proposed crossing site.

The planned frontier post was "in an area where Kadhafi supporters still moved freely", he told Libya Herald on Wednesday (August 21st).

But among border region residents, the plan is winning broad support.

"It's a good decision that came at the right time," said Imam Mahjoub, a Libyan who often visits Tunisia. "It took into account the interest of the citizens of both countries and will alleviate the hardships of navigating the other crossings," he said.

Said Louati, a resident of southern Tunisia, agreed that the crossing would serve Libyans and Tunisians alike.

"It will open promising prospects for development between the two countries," the Tunisian said.

Still, security should be the priority, Tunisian border resident Jalil Kadouri said.

"Circumstances are not appropriate for opening a third border crossing that could create a state of chaos and unwanted lawlessness," he said.

Authorities should instead focus on ending terrorism and illegal trafficking across their shared border, he added.

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