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Saturday, 18 November 2017

INTERVIEW: Egypt, Tunisia have opportunity to boost economic relations, says Tunisian PM Youssef Chahed

Al-Ahram daily newspaper interviewed Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed ahead of his first-ever visit to Cairo

Karem Yehia, Tunis, Sunday 12 Nov 2017
Sisi-Tun Pm
Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi during a meeting with Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed in Cairo on Sunday(Photo: Ahram)
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Ahead of his first-ever visit to Cairo, Al-Ahram daily newspaper interviewed the seventh prime minister since the Tunisian revolution in 2011, Youssef Chahed.

Chahed met with Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in Cairo on Sunday to discuss bilateral relations between Egypt and Tunisia.

Chahed, who assumed his post in August 2016, said that he was happy to be visiting Cairo, adding that he has always seen Egypt as an important cultural and political venue.

On the future of Egyptian-Tunisian relations, Chahed said that the governments of both countries should exert efforts to boost bilateral relations.

"Economic ties between the two countries remain weak considering what can be achieved," Chahed said. 

The PM also said that the challenges and difficulties that have hit the economies of Egypt and Tunisia have led to decreased economic cooperation.

"When I announced that I would be visiting Egypt, many businessmen expressed their desire to join the visit to discover investment opportunities," the PM said.

"We as political leaders bear the responsibility of creating opportunities for the private sector to develop and increase trade between the two countries," Chahed said, adding that Egyptian businessmen "have an equal opportunity to come and invest in Tunisia."

Chahed also said that the visit would focus on bilateral relations and activating the Joint High Committee between Egypt and Tunisia, which has not been held since 2015.

Chahed is accompanied on his visit by a delegation of ministers who will meet with their Egyptian counterparts to follow up on the implementation of recent agreements and discuss further cooperation.

"I believe that a high level of cooperation can be achieved as Egypt and Tunisia share many cultural and historical ties, as well as a unique relationship between African countries," Chahed said, adding that Tunisia has historically had a good reputation among other African nations. 

"[Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi] has always been keen on boosting relations within the African continent," the PM said, adding that he recently visited three African countries and would visit three others soon.

"There is a good opportunity for Egypt and Tunisia to partner in investment in Africa," he said.

On the possibility of protests erupting in Tunisia, Chahed said that protesting is a right guaranteed by the constitution.

On combating terrorism, Chahed said that three major terrorist attacks that hit Tunisia in 2015 have led the country to take several new security measures in response.

Chahed said that the budget allocated to Tunisia's interior and defense ministries have been doubled, and that the country has established a 500km security system on its border with Libya.

"The situation in Libya has had an effect on us; this is because Tunisian security is tied to Libyan security and vice versa. The measures undertaken were successful, and security and stability have been achieved," he said.

Chahed added that he predicts that by the end of the year, Tunisia will have hosted 6.5 million tourists, including 1.5 million Europeans.

"The return of security has made the return of tourism possible; however, terror threats remain a threat as in the rest of the world," he said.

On the situation between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, the Tunisian prime minister said that his country does not interfere in the affairs of other states.

"Tunisia has maintained good relations with its Gulf brothers and other Arab states," he said, stressing that the Arab world does not need more conflicts.

"Our nations have major aspirations. Such crises do not add anything to the Arab nation. As politicians, our aim is to accomplish peoples' wishes, and the wish here is unity and rapprochement," Chahed said.

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