Tunisia Islamists give hero’s welcome to Hamas leader
TUNIS – French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe and Gaza's Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya arrived in Tunisia on Thursday.
Juppe’s visit will last two days during which he is to urge the North African state's new government to respect the rule of law.
Haniya arrived on the next leg of a six-country tour to a welcome from Tunisia's new leaders and a crowd of some 2,000 people.
The Palestinian premier, accompanied by some 20 aides, was greeted on arrival by Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali and the leader of the dominant moderate Islamist Ennahda party, Rached Ghannouchi.
A crowd of mainly Islamist suppporters waved Palestinian and Ennahda party flags and shouted for "the liberation of Palestine."
Meanwhile, Juppe, who is on his second visit to Tunisia in less than a year, was met by his counterpart Rafik Abdessalem, with whom he had his first meeting, official news agency TAP reported.
France's top diplomat is also scheduled to meet Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, as well as members of civil societies and the French community in Tunisia.
Ahead of the visit targeted at "reinforcing bilateral relations and consolidating the privileged partnership between Tunisia and France," Juppe said he would urge the new authorities to respect the rule of law.
"What we said is that we will be vigilant that a number of principles are respected -- respect of all minorities, religious ones in particular, the respect of the status of women, and that's the message that I am sending to our Tunisian friends," he told I-tele on Tuesday.
Juppe's call was met with mixed reception, with commentary in some media pointing out that Paris had supported the regime of ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali until the end.
Ben Ali's regime was toppled by mass protests on January 14 last year while Tunisia's new government headed by Jebali of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party was sworn in on December 24.