A Tunisian Minister caused uproar, last week, when he sought to distance his country from its Arab neighbours and align it, instead, with Europe.
Riadh Mouakhar, minister for local government and the environment, said: “When asked where Tunisia is located, I would rather say that it is located in the south of Italy, not next to Algeria and Libya. Algeria is a socialist and communist country and Libya is a country where chaos reigns.”
While there was no response from Algerian authorities, there were calls in the press to sack him. For example, Hadda Hazzam, chief editor of the Algerian newspaper Al-Fajr called on the Tunisian government to dismiss Mouakher.
In an article published on Sunday in Al-Fajr, Hazzam said:
It does not really matter whether this minister has reconsidered his statements or not, for is impossible for any translator, regardless of how low his level is, to say what a minister did not say. We cannot tolerate a statement that involves disrespect for us and our country. If he’s embarrassed that his country is next to us, he should leave, because we cannot change geography
she went on,
We do not accept less than the dismissal of the minister because of this aggressive statement… For how long shall we remain silent as to the insults that periodically spring from Tunisian officials?
Hazzam apologised on behalf of the Tunisian people, whom she described as “helpless” and said that “such a statement can by no means be in the name of all Tunisians!”
“This is not the first time Algeria has been attacked by Tunisian officials,” she said. “The words of Mouakhar remind us of the words of Defence Minister Horchani, who, two years ago, blamed from Algeria for allowing terrorists into Tunisia.”
One of Tunisia’s ruling Parties, Ennahda, has strongly condemned Minister Mouakhar’s remarks, describing them as “irresponsible statements about the strong brotherly relations between Tunisia and its neighbours”.
Ennahda confirmed in a statement on Saturday that “the deep relations among the government and the people of Tunisia and its brother-countries Libya and Algeria are too strong to be shaken by such statements that have nothing to do with the facts of geography, history and common future.”
Ennahda, called on everyone to respect the constants of Tunisia’s relations with its neighbours as they might affect regional security and Tunisia’s national interests.
For his part, the Tunisian General Union of Labour condemned the statements of Mouakhar, describing the mas “irresponsible” and stressed that “insulting Algeria is detrimental to the interests of Tunisia and to its long standing fraternal relations with it’s neighbour”.
The Union called on the Tunisian government to step up its cooperation with Algeria in order to find a solution to the Libyan crisis.