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Tunisian President Marzouki makes first official visit to France

February 17, 2014 at 11:18 pm

Tunisia’s new President, Moncef Marzouki, has arrived in France for a 3-day official visit, his first since his election last December. Marzouki will meet French President Francois Hollande and the two leaders will hold a joint press conference to be followed by dinner at the Élysée Palace.

During the trip, Mr. Marzouki will also address the French National Assembly and hold talks with the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Senate, the Interior Minister and the Mayor of Paris.

Official sources in Tunis have stressed that Marzouki is also set to meet civil society activists and members of the Tunisian community based in Paris. On the final day of the visit, the President will head to the southern city of Marseilles to meet its Mayor as well as the head of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. Marzouki’s programme also includes meetings with businessmen and members of the Tunisian community in Marseilles, in addition to visiting the Eurocopter industrial site.

President Marzouki’s visit has been planned since February but was delayed due to the French presidential election, which ended with victory for socialist Hollande over right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy. Hollande visited Tunis during his party’s primaries, when he expressed his support for the democratic transition in Tunisia.

Tunis-Paris relations have been sensitive since the eruption of the Tunisian revolution; France’s then Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie suggested that France could help to train Tunisia’s hated security forces to help them to control the revolution. This made Tunisians bitter against Sarkozy’s cabinet because it supported Ben Ali’s regime until the last minute.

France is Tunisia’s largest trading partner and around 600,000 Tunisians live in the former colonial power; 25,000 French citizens live in Tunis. Bilateral cooperation occurs in various fields, such as health, education, energy, agriculture and tourism.

Marzouki’s visit to France concludes a tour which has included Egypt and Ethiopia.