Europeans warn nationals to avoid Tunisia

13th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

European countries began warning their citizens Thursday not to visit Tunisia amid increasing concern about deadly protests shaking the popular north African holiday destination.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said senior European Union diplomats would be meeting Friday at Berlin's suggestion to discuss the situation, as he called for an end to attacks on demonstrators.

He advised Germans to put off any non-essential trips to Tunisia, echoing similar calls made Thursday by the Netherlands and Portugal.

Westerwelle said only dialogue could resolve the violent conflict which has seen scores of demonstrators killed in clashes with police.

"We expect an end to the widespread actions against demonstrators," he said at a press conference. "The fundamental rights of citizens and the principles of the rule of law must be protected."

He also called for the swift release of all political prisoners "as announced by the Tunisian government."

The Swiss Foreign Affairs Department (DFAE) also said it was not advisable to go to Tunisia for tourism or other reasons unless it was urgently necessary "until things become clearer."

"More incidents are likely" and "a worsening of the security situation is possible," it added, advising those who had to go to abide by local regulations, especially with regard to curfews.

Earlier the DFAE said a woman with joint Swiss and Tunisian nationality had been among those killed, as it urged authorities in the north African country to respect protestors' human rights.

In The Hague meanwhile Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal said in a statement he was "very concerned about the way things are developing in Tunisia."

"The situation is deteriorating rapidly and is becoming more dangerous, even for Dutch people living in Tunisia. For this reason I am advising against any non-essential trip to Tunisia," he said.

The foreign ministry said some 700 Dutch nationals were currently vacationing in Tunisia and a further 500 were living there.

"In view of the unstable situation in Tunisia, any visit to that country is discouraged," the government department for Portuguese abroad in Lisbon said for its part.

The European Union on Wednesday condemned the "disproportionate" use of force by police against demonstrators.

New clashes erupted in the capital Thursday, with at least one person shot dead in the city centre, according to witnesses, after eight were reported killed in greater Tunis in overnight violence and more than 60 across the country since mid-December.

The protests which initially focused on unemployment have turned into the worst unrest facing the authoritarian regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 20 years.

Promises to create jobs and release most of those arrested, as well as the sacking of the interior minister, have failed to quell the unrest.

© 2011 AFP

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