France calls for 'equal partnership' with ex-colony Tunisia
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe on Thursday urged a "really equal partnership" between Tunisia and its former ruler and voiced support for the new Tunis government's efforts to buttress democracy.
Juppe, who arrived on his second visit to the north African country in less than a year, was met by his counterpart Rafik Abdessalem, with whom he had his first meeting, the official news agency TAP reported.
"The friendship between France and Tunisia is at its strongest level," said Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali after meeting France's top diplomat, who also held talks with President Moncef Marzouki.
Juppe added: "We have decided to turn this friendship into a really equal partnership.
Ties have cooled with many here charging that Paris had supported the regime of ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali until the end.
Ahead of the visit targeted at "reinforcing bilateral relations and consolidating the privileged partnership between Tunisia and France," Juppe said he would urge the new authorities to respect the rule of law.
On Thursday, he underscored Paris's "full support for the democratic process unfolding here in Tunisia as it is founded on values that are common to us: the rule of law, respect for private and public liberty, human rights and the rights of women."
Ben Ali's regime was toppled by mass protests on January 14 last year while Tunisia's new government headed by Jebali of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party was sworn in on December 24.
© 2012 AFP