German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle became the first Western official to meet with Tunisia’s new Prime Minister, Al Larayed, on Tuesday. Westerwelle pledged German investment to Tunisia’s emerging democracy.
Westerwelle's meeting with Larayed on Tuesday in Tunis comes on the heels of Larayed's inauguration last week.
In a press conference following the meeting, Westerwelle said Germany supported Tunisia's wobbly progression toward democracy following the country's revolution at the start of the Arab Spring two years ago.
"Violence, extremists and fanatics must not form the image of Tunisia but rather respect, democracy, the rule of law and tolerance and we want to help," Westerwelle said. "I am not here to give ultimatums but to express friendship, solidarity and support. But it is obvious – the more stable, reliable and democratic the development of the country, the easier it will be for European and German investments to come to Tunisia."
Tunisia has precariously hung on to the stability achieved after the fall of former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011. Unrest has prevented the formation of a government until the last few weeks.
Westerwelle's Tunisian counterpart, Othmane Jarandi, said Tunisia was urgently seeking the “economic support from its friends.” He added he hoped Germany's example would prompt other countries to trust and support the Tunisia government.
As part of a “transformation partnership” initiative Germany has established with some Arab Spring countries, a total of 50 million euros ($64.5 million) in development aid, debt relief and subsidies has been contributed to Tunisia, according to the German Foreign Ministry.
On Thursday, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki is expected in Berlin to meet with President Joachim Guack. He is also scheduled to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday.
mz/jm (dpa, AFP)