By Houda Mzioudet.
Tunis, 11 December:
The Ras Jedir border crossing between Tunisia and . . .[restrict]Libya reopened late yesterday evening, Monday, after being closed in the afternoon as a result of a protest by Tunisian traders, mostly from Ben Guerdane.
According to a Tunisian customs official, the traders had blocked the road in protest at Tunisian vehicles being refused permission to leave Libya because they did not fulfill new Libyan customs procedures. He told the Libya Herald that it reopened around 9-10pm last night.
He said he thought a couple of Libyan vehicles might have been attacked during the protests but there has been no confirmation of this.
Eyewitnesses told local radio station Radio Tataouine that the traders had gone to the border post to put pressure on the authorities to reassess the new Libyan measures on cross-border trade. The new measures require Tunisian traders to produce commercial licenses and pay customs taxes. The traders say this restricts their activities.
Merchants put the blame on the Tunisian authorities which introduced a new measure imposing an export license on agricultural products. This measure brought about similar proceedings from Libyan authorities in direct response to the Tunisian move.
Traders told a Tunisian Press Agency correspondent that the Libyan authorities had given them a deadline of three days to settle the status of their goods, which ended yesterday. The new procedure stipulated that goods transported between Libya and Tunisia would be subjected to the new measures. According to eyewitnesses this move has resulted in some 200 vehicles being held by Libyan customs.
The traders’ road block resulted large tail-backs of traffic on both sides of the border. “Libyan ambulances kept crossing into Tunisia as usual,” the Tunisian Ras Jedir border crossing official confirmed, however.