Middle East

German minister to hold talks with new Tunisian government

German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle, right, and his Algerian counterpart Mourad Medelci answer questions of journalists at the German Ministry of Foreign Affaires in Berlin, Thursday March 14, 2013. (AP Photo/dpa,Wolfgang Kumm)

BERLIN: German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle will travel to Tunisia Monday to underline Berlin's backing for political reforms in talks with the country's new government, a spokesman said.

Deputy ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said Westerwelle will meet Prime Minister Ali Larayedh, Foreign Minister Othmane Jarandi and other members of the government and opposition in Tunis on Tuesday.

"We want to establish contact with the new government just days after it took office," Schaefer told a regular government briefing.

"The foreign minister would like to give a show of German support for Tunisia's reform process."

Westerwelle, representing Europe's top economy, is the first Western minister to hold talks with the moderate Islamist Larayedh since he took office on Thursday.

Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, has faced intense political turmoil since the February murder of leftist opposition leader Chokri Belaid, a critic of the ruling Islamists.

Belaid's assassination plunged the country further into political crisis two years after Tunisia toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in a popular uprising that touched off revolutions throughout the region.

Larayedh, who leads an uneasy coalition of the Islamists and two secular parties, has pledged to end the upheaval this year by adopting a new constitution, organising elections, creating conditions for a revival of the economy and restoring security.





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