Tunisia’s travel agencies hit as coronavirus pandemic pummels tourism

Tunisia’s travel agencies hit as coronavirus pandemic pummels tourism
Above, the Baths of Antoninus or Baths of Carthage is empty after measures were taken by authorities to prevent the spread of coronavirus on March 20, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 27 July 2020

Tunisia’s travel agencies hit as coronavirus pandemic pummels tourism

Tunisia’s travel agencies hit as coronavirus pandemic pummels tourism
  • Travel agencies are in ‘a very difficult situation’

DUBAI: Tunisia’s travel brokers took a massive hit during the first half as the coronavirus pandemic pummeled the country’s tourism industry, which accounts for up to 14 percent national output.

Business in the travel brokerage sector, with about 1,300 travel agencies and nearly 20,000 travel agents, fell by up to 80 percent during the first half, Hatem Salhi, a senior official representing the industry, said in a report from state news agency TAP.

Travel agencies are in ‘a very difficult situation’, especially after the total of paralysis of trips, Salhi said.

The coronavirus revealed a set of weaknesses within the Tunisian system, such as the absence of an insurance law on ‘force majeure,’ he added, as he called on a single-sector and unified trade union.

Domestic tourism should be consolidated through the promotion of travel tours as well as cultural tourism, Salhi said.

Tunisia reopened its borders on June 27 and travelers from countries classified as ‘green’ – including France, Germany and Luxembourg – who are not subject to any coronavirus restrictions were slowly returning after a break of more than three months due to the coronavirus pandemic.


Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce

Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce
In this file photo taken on November 19, 2020, a Libyan stands in front of a school, which was damaged during fighting between rival factions, in the capital Tripoli's suburb of Ain Zara. (AFP)
Updated 24 January 2021

Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce

Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce
  • Ankara and Moscow appear intent on defending their interests under any final settlement

TRIPOLI: Foreign forces ignored a deadline to pull out of Libya as scheduled on Saturday under a UN-backed cease-fire deal, highlighting the fragility of peace efforts after a decade of conflict.

Satellite images broadcast by CNN show a trench running tens of kilometers dug by “Russian mercenaries” near the frontline coastal city of Sirte, as main foreign protagonists Ankara and Moscow appear intent on defending their interests under any final settlement.
An unidentified US intelligence official, quoted by the American news network, said there was “no intent or movement by either Turkish or Russian forces to abide by the UN-brokered agreement.”
“This has the potential to derail an already fragile peace process and cease-fire. It will be a really difficult year ahead,” he said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday urged all “regional and international actors to respect the provisions” of the Oct. 23 cease-fire accord that set out a withdrawal within three months of all foreign troops and mercenaries.
That deadline passed on Saturday, with no movement announced or observed on the ground.
The UN estimates there are still some 20,000 foreign troops and mercenaries in Libya helping the warring factions, the UN-recognized Government of National Accord in Tripoli and military strongman Khalifa Haftar in the east. The GNA has received military support from Turkey. Haftar has the backing of Russia.
Guterres called on all parties to implement the terms of the cease-fire “without delay,” something he noted “includes ensuring the departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya, and the full and unconditional respect of the Security Council arms embargo,” which has been in place since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted and killed longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi.

HIGHLIGHT

The UN estimates there are still some 20,000 foreign troops and mercenaries in Libya helping the warring factions.

Any withdrawal or end to foreign interference “does not depend on the Libyans but on the outside powers,” said Khaled Al-Montasser, professor of international relations at Tripoli University.
Turkey on Friday welcomed a deal reached at UN-backed talks for Libya’s warring factions to set up an interim executive to rule the North African country until polls in December.
Turkey has backed the GNA with military advisers, materiel and mercenaries, repelling an advance on Tripoli by Haftar’s forces, and it also has a military base in Al-Watiya on the border with Tunisia under a 2019 military accord.
Last December, parliament in Ankara extended by 18 months its authorization for Turkey’s troop deployment in Libya, in apparent disregard of the cease-fire deal.
“The mercenaries are unlikely to leave Libya so long as the countries which have engaged them have not guaranteed their interests in the new transitional phase,” said Montasser, referring to the multiple tracks of UN-sponsored talks currently underway.
“Their presence keeps alive the threat of military confrontation at any moment, while the current calm staying in place seems uncertain,” he said.
Most of the foreign forces are concentrated around Sirte, at Al-Jufra airbase held by Haftar’s forces 500 km south of Tripoli and further west in Al-Watiya.