Libya-Tunisia border post re-opens after weeks of tension

AFP , Monday 7 Apr 2014

A woman and her family cross from Libya to Tunisia at the Ras Jdir border crossing, February 2011 (Photo: Reuters)

The main border crossing between Libya and Tunisia, a gateway for contraband Libyan petrol whose closure nearly a month ago fuelled tensions in southern Tunisia, reopened on Monday.

Tripoli decided to close the Ras Jedir crossing in early March, according to Tunisian officials, a decision thought to have been linked to the large number of vehicles loaded with cheap fuel arriving in Tunisia.

Libyan vehicles started arriving once again mid-afternoon on Monday, after Tunisia's interior ministry stated earlier that the Libyan authorities had agreed to reopen the border post.

The interior ministers of the neighbouring nations were expected to meet in Tunis on Tuesday to draw up "a series of measures" relating to the Ras Jedir crossing, it added.

Tripoli said the crossing had been closed by "mutual agreement" pending "security guarantees" for Libyans living in Tunisia.

The move ignited unrest in the nearby Tunisian town of Ben Guerdane, which depends on informal trade with Libya.

Residents ransacked the local offices of Tunisia's main workers' union last week, after it failed to observe an indefinite strike called to demand the border post's reopening and to protest the lack of investment in the neglected southern region.

The World Bank said in December that 20 percent of the active population in Ben Guerdane work in the contraband business, making it one of the area's largest employers, if not the largest.

The coastal town was rocked by a week of clashes between police and protesters in January last year, after a similar closure of the Ras Jedir border crossing.

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