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Steinmeier proposes border assistance for Tunisia

July 12, 2015

German FM Frank-Walter Steinmeier has proposed EU border assistance for Tunisia to curb militant movement, according to a media report. The proposal is said to be backed by the UK and France.

Tunesien Terrorgefahr Britische Touristen
Image: picture-alliance/AA/M. Amine Ben Aziza

According to the German "Süddeutsche Zeitung" newspaper, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has proposed to provide Tunisia with an EU border assistance mission.

The proposal is said to strengthen the North African country's borders with Libya and Algeria - countries that have witnessed increased militant activity, including the presence of the "Islamic State" militant group.

The initiative would bolster Tunisian border guards with training and equipment, expanding on a similar enterprise Germany undertook in 2012.

The proposal - understood to be backed by Steinmeier's British and French counterparts - is expected to be on the table at the next EU foreign ministers meeting due to take place on July 20.

Germany's move to bolster Tunisian borders with EU assistance follows attacks on a beach resort in the coastal city of Sousse as well as the Bardo National Museum, which combined left more than 55 dead, many of whom were European tourists.

Imminent threat?

The UK on Thursday urged more than 3,000 British nationals in Tunisia to leave the country immediately since local authorities could not provide "adequate protection" in case of an attack.

"If you're in Tunisia and you don't have an essential need to remain, you should leave by commercial means," said British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

However, Tunisian minister Kamel Jendoubi said his government regretted the UK's decision to repatriate British nationals since "there is no evidence suggesting the imminence" of an attack.

"Since the [Sousse] attack, the security forces have carried out more than 700 operations resulting in the arrests of 127 suspected members of terrorist gangs," Jendoubi said.

The government minister added that 3,000 security personnel were protecting sites frequented by foreigners, including beaches, hotels and archeological sites.

"Today, more than 100,000 police, national guard and civil protection officers in addition to the army" have been deployed, Jendoubi noted.

Tunisia's bolstering of security comes amid increased militant activity on its borders, most notably by the "Islamic State," which began operating in Libya earlier this year.

ls/jr (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa, EPD)