By Ryszard Bouvier.
Tripoli, 15 December:
Interior Minister Ashour Shuwail discussed pressing border security concerns with his Tunisian counterpart Ali Al-Arid in a telephone . . .[restrict]call last night.
Recurrent disturbances at the northwestern Ras Jedir border crossing are understood to have been among the issues addressed during the call.
The ministers pledged to boost bilateral cooperation on cross-border security matters and to establish mechanisms to encourage more effective border controls.
Shuwail also reiterated his country’s appreciation for Tunisia’s support for the Libyan people during the revolution in 2011.
The talks came in the wake of intensified efforts by the Libyan government to set up a countrywide border management strategy and tackle repeated security breaches along Libya’s porous borders.
Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has just returned from a six-day tour to Algeria, Niger, Chad and Sudan, whose prime purpose was to discuss security.
Libya plans to set up joint border forces with its southern neighbours in order to stem the flow of migrants, weapons and drugs.
Although Libya’s border with Tunisia is better controlled than those to the south, frequent incidents at Ras Jedir and Dehiba have obstructed regular movement across the border and sparked discontent amongst travellers and tradesmen.
Ras Jedir is one of the entry points for drugs and alcohol distributed on the Libyan black market.
Authorities have intercepted several truckloads of illegal goods in the past year, triggering clashes between border officials and traffickers on several occasions.
But the issue is not just one of criminal gangs. Towns along Libya’s border with Tunisia rely heavily on trade between the two countries.
Just four days ago, Ras Jedir was closed for several hours when Tunisian traders set up a roadblock , protesting new Libyan customs requirements.
It is clear that Libya needs to maintain good relations with its neighbours and push for multilateral initiatives to improve the surveillance of remote areas where security breaches have occurred in the past.
Lenience with non-state actors who are in control of border zones will only perpetuate instability.
Libya’s new government under Zeidan seems to be determined to move forward on these issues in the coming months. [/restrict]