France's Juppe holds talks with Tunisia's new Islamist premier
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe praised Tunisia's democratic transition after holding talks Thursday with the country's new prime minister, Hamadi Jebali, on the first day of his two-day visit to the country, dpa reported.
"We fully support the democratic process that is taking place in Tunisia because it is founded on values we share: The rule of law, respect for civil and individual freedoms, human rights and women's rights," Juppe told a press conference in Tunis after meeting with Jebali.
For the democratization process to succeed Tunisia needed to overcome its economic challenges, he said, pledging the support of the former colonial power in Tunisia.
"We encourage French investors to take an interest in Tunisia and we encourage our citizens to come back as tourists to this attractive country, which presents secure and stable conditions," he said.
Juppe's visit is aimed at cementing a new era in Franco-Tunisian relations.
France fell out of favour with Tunisians last year after then French defence minister offered Tunisia's embattled president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali assistance in quelling pro-democracy protests.
Ben Ali was eventually forced into exile on January 14 - the first leader to be ousted in the Arab Spring uprisings. The offending French minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, was also forced to resign.
Juppe's visit is his second to Tunisia since the uprising.
He is the first foreign dignitary to visit since the installation last month of a power-sharing government headed by the moderate Islamist party Ennahda - winner of last October's assembly elections.
Ennahda's win caused concern among many liberal Tunisians, who fear the party's moderate discourse conceals an agenda to remake the country along religious lines.
Ahead of his visit Juppe warned that France would be watching to ensure that the government respected the rights of minorities and women.
During his visit he is also to meet with President Moncef Marzouki, a veteran human rights activist, who spent several years in exile in France, and the president of the assembly, Mustapha Ben Jaafar.