Tunisian politicians urge UK to reverse travel alert
LONDON - A delegation of Tunisian politicians visited London Monday, urging Britain's government to reverse advice to tourists against visiting Tunisia following the beach hotel attack near Sousse that killed 38.
Tunisia's tourism and transport ministers and speaker of parliament held meetings at the Foreign Office and with the speaker of Britain's House of Commons while offering condolences to the families of victims, 30 of whom were British.
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond met Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid in Brussels, where EU ministers promised to boost political and economic support for Tunisia.
Britain advised its nationals to leave Tunisia and warned against all but essential travel to the country a fortnight after last month's attack by a jihadist gunman. It warned local authorities could not provide "adequate protection."
Essid threatened unspecified repercussions in response, but earlier this month the British ambassador to Tunisia, Hamish Cowell, said Britain wanted to review the advisory "as soon as possible."
Members of the delegation said the travel alert threatens to have a powerful impact on the economy in Tunisia, where tourism accounts for between seven and eight percent of gross domestic product and 400,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Tourism Minister Selma Elloumi Rekik said that they had reassured the Foreign Office that security measures had been reinforced significantly since the attack took place.
"The meeting was very positive, we had lots of discussion about the security situation, the economic situation, the situation for tourists in Tunisia," she said.
Mohamed Ennaceur, speaker of the Tunisian parliament, admitted he was surprised when Britain changed its travel advice.
"But what we heard today and earlier is reassuring us it's an immediate reaction which has been taken under emotion," he added.
"Tunisia does not deserve to be sanctioned. It has done everything and takes all the different measures" necessary to ensure security.
Zohra Driss, the owner of the Imperial Marhaba hotel where the attack took place and a lawmaker, said that continuing to warn travellers against visiting Tunisia would cause "the biggest economic and social crisis (it) has ever known.
"It would plunge Tunisia into instability and unemployment which will contribute to radical Islamism," she added.
Hotels now had teams of armed police on duty 24 hours a day and that they were "as safe as European airports," she added.
"Our message was one of condolence and sympathy -- Tunisia has been bereaved, as if raped by these terrorists," she said.
"Tunisia doesn't deserve that. People who come to Tunisia are a bit like family. So we say have confidence in Tunisia again and come back."