World Blinken says Tunisian president promised ‘democratic path’
Blinken to pay first trip to India amid Afghanistan withdrawal
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will speak next week in India about supporting Afghanistan as worries grow in New Delhi about Taliban gains amid the end of the two-decade US military mission, officials said Friday. President Joe Biden has ordered an end to the longest-ever US war by the end of August, saying that nothing more can be achieved militarily -- despite rapid gains on the ground by Taliban insurgents. The Taliban welcomed virulently anti-Indian extremists when the Sunni Muslim militants ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, with an Indian civilian airliner hijacked to the Taliban bastion of Kandahar in 1999.
The US Secretary of State has expressed concern about the political crisis in Tunisia after President Kais Saied suspended the parliament and dismissed the government in a move the country’s main political parties called a “coup”.
Antony Blinken said on Thursday that he was concerned about the possibility of Tunisia deviating from its democratic path, urging action including the restoration of parliament after he spoke to Saied on Monday.
The top US envoy said that Saied gave a “lengthy explanation” of why he took the unprecedented step, adding that the Tunisian president promised him he was committed to democracy.
India ready to engage with Blinken on human rights: Officials
During his two-day visit, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to raise New Delhi’s human rights record. © Provided by Al Jazeera US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will begin his two-day India visit on Tuesday [File: Ken Cedeno/Reuters] Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has faced allegations it has suppressed dissent, pursued divisive policies to appeal to its Hindu nationalist base and alienated Muslims, the country’s biggest minority.
“The intentions he expressed to me were to return Tunisia to that democratic path and to act in a way that was consistent with the constitution,” Blinken told Al Jazeera during a visit to Kuwait.
“But of course we have to look at the actions that the president takes, that Tunisia takes,” he said.
Blinken expressed hope that Tunisia will “return to the democratic path”.
“So our strong hope and expectation is that Tunisia will return to that democratic path, act consistent with the constitution, unfreeze the parliament, have a government in place to do the work of the people, to be responsive to their needs.”
The State Department had previously said only that Blinken encouraged Saied to “adhere to the principles of democracy and human rights” without explicitly calling for the return of parliament.
Blinken in India for talks dominated by Afghan turmoil, China
Top US diplomat Antony Blinken arrived Tuesday in India for talks dominated by turmoil in Afghanistan and common worries about China, while also touching on New Delhi's rights record. The talks in a monsoon-soaked New Delhi will also touch on joint efforts on making Covid-19 vaccines, climate change and, according to US officials, India's recent human rights record.Blinken, in his first India visit as secretary of state, was due to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Wednesday before flying to Kuwait.
Saied, a political newcomer when he won a landslide presidential election victory in 2019, intervened after mass protests over the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
He also dismissed top officials and the head of the national television channel and declared what he calls a crackdown on corruption.
The power grab has been welcomed by many Tunisians struggling to make ends meet and fed up by the mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The young democracy had often been cited as the sole success story of the Arab Spring. But, 10 years on, many say they have seen little improvement in living standards, and have grown infuriated by protracted political deadlock with infighting among the elite.
Blinken also said the rights of journalists need to be upheld by Tunisia’s government following the removal of the head of the national television station on Wednesday, and the decision to storm Al Jazeera’s bureau in the capital Tunis.
Tunisia tries to reassure as Ennahdha presses for early elections
Largest political bloc ‘ready’ for legislative, presidential polls at it warns of the emergence of an ‘autocratic’ rule.Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi said he explained that the extraordinary measures were temporary and that his counterparts pledged their continued support to the fledgling democracy.
“My comment is that we stand absolutely for freedom of the press and for the ability of journalists to do their jobs,” Blinken told Al Jazeera.
“And we look to the government of Tunisia to uphold and respect the rights of journalists, and that’s one of the things we expect of them,” he added.
His comments came a day after President Saied replaced the head of the national television station Mohamed al-Dahach after officials from the journalists’ syndicate and human rights league were barred from entering the TV station.
The head of the channel Dahach said he was acting on instructions from the army which a military spokesman denied on-air. Eventually, both guests were allowed in.
Bassam Trifi, deputy head of the Tunisian Human Rights League, was one of the guests barred from entering the channel.
He told Al Jazeera that they would “deal with this exceptional situation with caution”.
“Yesterday we issued a statement that we won’t accept any infringement on our liberties, the ones we gained in 2011,” Trifi said.
“Whatever the explanation of what happened at the state TV is, civil society is aware of any attempts to affect our freedoms, the liberties acquired through the struggle of Tunisian people. We are watching where all of this is going carefully,” he added.
Blinken starts India visit with address to civil society leaders
The US Secretary of State will meet his Indian counterpart and other officials before heading to see PM Narendra Modi.Blinken, in his first visit to the country since joining US President Joe Biden’s administration, is expected to discuss supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, the security situation in Afghanistan as well as India’s human rights record on Wednesday.
Ravi Prasad, the head of global outreach for the International Press Institute said Tunisians have had very limited access to information since the recent political upheaval.
“After the revolution, what we witnessed was that media in Tunisia had great freedom,” Prasad told Al Jazeera.
“But now this hard-fought freedom the media got is at risk because of the changes that are taking place.
“We do need independent media in Tunisia at this moment, and we need the support of the international community, and pressure on the government, to stop harassing the media, allow media organisations like Al Jazeera … to function and get the news to the people,” he added.
President Saied has said the parliament would be suspended for 30 days, though he told reporters the 30-day period can be extended if needed “until the situation settles down”.
Saied has accused 460 businessmen of embezzlement as he declared a crackdown on corruption. In his comments late on Wednesday, the president singled out for criticism “those who plunder public money”.
He said he would assume executive authority with the assistance of a new prime minister. It is the biggest challenge yet to a 2014 constitution that split powers between the president, prime minister and parliament.
He also suspended the immunity of members of parliament, insisting his actions were in line with the constitution.
His move has been criticised by the main political parties, including the Islamist Ennahda.
"Revolution" or "dictatorship": In Egypt, the Tunisian crisis divides social networks .
© AFP - - Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed welcomed by his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi in Cairo, April 9, 2021. In recent days, Egyptian Internet users engage in a real duel between presidents and opponents of President Kaïs Saïed. In the Nile Valley, no one has forgotten that the uprising of Tunisians against Ben Ali had been the catalyst for that of the Egyptians against Mubarak. of our correspondent in Cairo, for supporters of Kaïs Saïed, it is today Egypt which is the example.