France’s far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen refused Tuesday to go into a meeting with Lebanon’s grand mufti on Tuesday after his aides asked her to wear a headscarf. Le Pen, who is on a three-day visit to Lebanon this week and has met senior officials, was scheduled to meet with Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian, Lebanon’s top Sunni Muslim religious authority. Shortly after she arrived at his office Tuesday morning, one of his aides handed her out a white headscarf to put on. Following a discussion that lasted a few minutes, she refused and walked toward her car and left. Le Pen has tried to raise her international profile and press her pro-Christian stance with her visit to Lebanon, a former French protectorate. On Monday, she met with President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri, declaring that Syrian President Bashar Assad was “the most reassuring solution for France”. On Tuesday, after walking away from the meeting with Derian, she said that before it, she had told the cleric’s office that she was not planning to don a veil during the encounter and was not told not to come. “They didn’t cancel the meeting so I thought they would accept the fact that I wouldn’t wear one”, she said. “They tried to impose it upon me, make it a matter of fact. You can’t put me before a matter of fact”
The regional councils of Greater Tunis governorates and the Ile-de-France region signed, on Tuesday in Tunis, a decentralised co-operation agreement on several areas of focus. The Agreement is been signed by Local Affairs and Enviroment Minister Riadh Moukher and President of the Ile-de-France region Valerie Pecresse, in the presence of the Ambassador of France in Tunis. Economic development, renewable energies, environment, education, training and youth are directly concerned by this agreement. “This is an ambitious and symbolic agreement” said Pecresse to Tap, adding this agreeement represents France’s will to aid Tunisia in his way of development. According to her around 500.000 French person have familial ties with Tunisia and around 30% of foreign inhabitants of France come from the Maghreb region.
France intends to implement certain projects jointly with Azerbaijan, French Minister of State for State Reform and Simplification attached to the Prime Minister, member of the government, President of the Senate’s Ecologist parliamentary group Jean-Vincent Place told reporters in Baku. Jean-Vincent Place also said that the cooperation between Azerbaijan and France in the field of education stands at a high level, and France companies are represented here at the highest level. “We had discussions with the service management on bilateral cooperation. Besides, we are willing to implement projects to develop e-government portal. The main goal is to conduct the exchange of experience. France has some experience on e-government. We can benefit from “ASAN” mobile buses in many departments. We held and will hold several meetings in connection with partnership in the field of open government,” the minister said.
On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey lavorv, during a press conference, affirmed that Russia is ready to take part in a new Normandy Quartet (Russia, Germany, France, Ukraine) meeting scheduled for November 29, provided it will not be another pointless meeting. On Wednesday, German top diplomat Frank Walter Steinmeier, while addressing the Bundestag (German Parliament), said that Germany and France had plans to arrange a Normandy Quartet ministerial meeting in Belarus’s capital of Minsk on November 29. On 23rd of November, the members of Contact Group ( Ukraine, Russian federation, Donetsk’s People Republic and Lugansk’s People republic) met during a meeting, but they didn’t reach any positive result. The parties, in particular, needs to agree on the ways to put into effect the law on the special status of Donbass, ensure that the parties to the conflict take simultaneous steps in the security sphere while the Ukrainian authorities implement political reforms in accordance with the Minsk agreements.
France accused Syria and its allies on Wednesday of using the political uncertainty in the United States to launch “total war” against rebel-held areas in the country and said states opposed to President Bashar al-Assad would meet in Paris soon. U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is only inaugurated on Jan. 20 and the outgoing administration is not expected to take an active role in Syria so close to leaving office. European diplomats have expressed concern that Assad may feel emboldened by Trump’s vow to build closer ties with Russia, Syria’s ally.
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov will pay a working visit to France on November 17. During the visit, Mammadyarov will meet with French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development Jean-Marc Ayrault and discuss prospects of bilateral and multilateral cooperation. The current state of the negotiations on the settlement of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will also be discussed at the meeting.
The French Development Agency is preparing to establish a diversified partnership with the Gafsa region, in particular with the Phosphates Company to create rail lines connected to ports and dedicated to phosphate transport, especially to the governorate of Sfax, France’s ambassador in Tunis, Olivier Poivre d’Arvor told TAP on Tuesday during his visit to the region. France is willing to finance this project, he said. Efforts are being made to boost the partnership between Gafsa governorate and several French regions, including Lille and the Pays de la Loire, the diplomat said, pointing out that a cultural centre will be created in Gafsa as part of the promotion of the sector in the region. The visit of the French Ambassador in Gafsa is part of monitoring the project to rehabilitate the districts of Essourour and El Moula, financed by AFD and the Tunisian Agency for Rehabilitation and Urban Renewal (ARRU). During his meeting with the governor of Gafsa, Olivier Poivre d’Arvor spoke about the multidisciplinary hospital project that will be carried out in 3 or 4 years for EUR 60 million in the framework of the recycling of part of Tunisia’s debt to France. This project will have a large influence on neighbouring regions, he pointed out.
Prime Minister Youssef Chahed met, on Wednesday in Paris, with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. In a statement to TAP, the French FM said that during the meeting they discussed the ways to provide the conditions for success of the International Conference on Investment “Tunisia 2020” scheduled for November 29 and 30. Emphasis was also placed on security co-operation between the two countries and the means and mechanisms that should be put in place to encourage the rapid return of French tourists to Tunisia. “France is actively encouraging tourists to visit Tunisia,” he said, adding that whoever believes in the Tunisian democracy should not hesitate to visit this country. Jean-Marc Ayrault also stressed that France is already very committed to Tunisia through the mobilisation of a EUR 1 billion fund over five years and contributes significantly to the doubling of European financial support to Tunisia.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, on Wednesday, called on French tourists to return to Tunisia and take full advantage of their holidays in this “beautiful country”. Tourism is a driving element of the Tunisian economy and the security situation has improved considerably, he said at the end of his meeting with Prime Minister Youssef Chahed. He is making a two-day official visit to France. Some 464,665 French tourists visited Tunisia in 2015, down 35.5% compared to 2014. France has been the leading European customer of Tunisia in terms of tourism since 2004. In an exclusive statement to TAP, France’s ambassador to Tunis, Olivier Poivre d’Arvor stressed his country’s determination to actively encourage the rapid return of French tourists to Tunisia. “This position is explained by the stabilisation of the political and security situation in Tunisia insofar as the danger of terrorism is largely controlled by the efforts exerted by the military and security institutions,” he said.
“We have to invent new relations between Tunisia and France,” Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said on the eve of his official visit to France (November 9 and 10), the first to a European country since he took office as PM. The political commitment of France to Tunisia “needs to be taken to a higher level.” Being “the exception in the Arab Spring, the challenge now is a successful transition to a new model,” he stressed in an interview with French newspaper “Le Monde” on Tuesday. Youssef Chahed said Tunisia defends the same universal values of democracy and human rights on which Europe is built and therefore “we have to be a strategic partner with a strong commitment from the international community.” Asked about his decision to postpone salary increases in the public service and to impose new taxes on liberal professions, the Prime Minister said Tunisia is facing “a difficult economic situation (requiring) tightening a bit the belt”. “We need everyone to be involved in these sacrifices to rescue the public finances,” he said.