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Tunisians upbeat that stability in Libya could bring economic relief

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FATHI NASRI/AFP or licensors

Tunisia

After years of war in Libya, Tunisian traders saw the reopening of the border with their oil-rich neighbor as a good sign.

They celebrated in hopes that stability in Libya could bring about economic growth in Tunisia.

Between that and the pandemic, Jaafar Ben Ali, a blanket dealer, has spent a whole year without buying supplies from Libya.

"From 2011 to 2016 the situation was acceptable. After 2016 and the attack of Daesh (IS group), trade operations between Tunisia and Libya became complicated, We were not trading at ease. You could not find goods because they did not enter (Libya) at all. With what was happening in Libya and with the attack that took place in Ben Guerdane, it was complicated and this had consequences on the market and on merchants", Ben Ali said.

The marketplace of Ben Guerdane, some 200 kilometres from the Libyan capital Tripoli, are known for their goods arriving via western Libya. Here, there is concern about the place reserved for cross-border traders.

"We hope that the situation will improve so that the citizens who cross the border will not remain blocked there for two, three, four hours or even the entire day. Ben Guerdane will always have the characteristic of being a border city that is closely linked to Libya and its trade", Ben Guerdane mayor, Faathi Aaboud

The resumption of political dialogue in Libya, coupled with the appointment of a transitional executive in March should lead the country to elections in December. A development that Tunisians have welcomed.

"What the Tunisians are trying to do in Libya with the forum that took place, the discussions, the presence of some businessmen in Tunisia, the attempts to sign contracts etc... All this is good, but it's disorganized and not necessarily supported by a political decision", said Tunisian economist, Ezzedine Saidane.

According to the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, a UN agency, the Libyan crisis cost Tunisia 24% of its economic growth between 2011 and 2015.

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