Press Statement with Foreign Minister Jhinaoui

Press Statement
Antony J. Blinken
Deputy Secretary of State
Tunis, Tunisia
July 22, 2016

(Delivered in French)

Minister Jhinaoui, thank you very much for your generous hospitality, and please extend my best wishes and those of the American government to the people of Tunisia. I am very pleased to be back in Tunis and see the progress that has been made since I was last here fifteen months ago. 

Against the greatest of headwinds, the Tunisian people are advancing the ideals and institutions of democracy. Even in the face of difficult economic and security challenges, Tunisians have come together, engaged their new democratic institutions, and persevered, and we are proud to support you. We know it is necessary for the Tunisian people to feel the tangible benefits of this transition, and we are working with the government to continue in this direction. 

I am grateful to the Foreign Minister for a very productive conversation today. In our meeting, and in my meetings with the President and the Prime Minister, I reaffirmed the importance of the strategic partnership that has flourished between our two democracies. 

I emphasized that as Tunisia’s commitment to reform strengthens—and important progress has been made, for example various pieces of legislation that have been passed by Parliament—the United States will continue to bolster our support. Meeting critical needs, providing essential know-how, and helping create the space for the tough decisions that Tunisia’s leaders must make to meet the aspirations of their people. 

We are pleased to have extended almost one billion dollars through two previous loan guarantees. On June 3, we signed our third loan guarantee, which will allow Tunisia to access up to $500 million in affordable financing from international capital markets. 

We welcome the ongoing work to create an environment in which established businesses can expand, and new ones can start. An investment climate that encourages companies from America, Europe, and elsewhere to come to Tunisia. The conference you have set up in November will be a very important moment to move in this direction. 

Also, through efforts like the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship Program and the English Access Microscholarship Program, we are helping young people gain the skills they need to compete in a 21st century marketplace.

The United States is committed to helping protect democratic and human rights gains as the greatest bulwark of long-term growth and stability. The work underway to prepare for local elections and implement decentralization is essential to the success of Tunisia’s democratic transition. 

We also applaud the steps that Tunisia has taken to strengthen civil society and improve transparency, including passing laws guaranteeing access to public information, establishing the Anti-Torture Authority, and passing anti-trafficking in persons legislation. 

We are also deepening our security cooperation—strengthening Tunisia’s capability to defeat those who threaten the freedom and security of the Tunisian people. 

The United States has doubled our security assistance this year alone. This assistance has already enabled Tunisian security forces to acquire badly needed equipment, and it has provided training to help modernize Tunisia’s police, national guard, and military into modern forces capable of defeating threats while also respecting the rule of law.

As a frontline state, Tunisia plays a critical role in the Global Coalition to Counter-ISIL or Counter-Daesh, and we continue to consult closely about the danger posed by regional instability, especially in neighboring Libya. 

And we know very well that the primary nation concerned by the situation in Libya is Tunisia. There is a security challenge facing Tunisia, but there is also an economic one. Libya was previously an important market for Tunisian exports, and I hope it will be one again. 

We thank Tunisia for its support of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, the Libyan Government of National Accord, and the efforts of UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General Martin Kobler to facilitate the Libyan political process. I know that you [Foreign Minister Jhinaoui] will meet with him today, precisely to facilitate this Libyan political process. 

Along with Tunisia and our other international partners, the United States will continue to support Prime Minister’s al-Sarraj’s efforts to build an effective government capable of delivering basic services, restoring oil production and the Libyan economy, and securing Libyan territory and borders.  

We strongly support the Libyan people’s aspiration, like Tunisians, to transform their country into a secure and democratic state, achieve unity and reconciliation, and restore the rule of law and state authority.  

Once again, thank you, Mr. Minister, for your leadership and partnership with the United States—a partnership that is truly essential. The United States is proud to stand by you—deepening our strategic partnership and working together to deliver results for our people. 

Thank you.