ABU DHABI // Tunisia's transition towards political stability offers hope to other Arab Spring countries, the UAE Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, said yesterday.
At a press conference with his Tunisian counterpart, Rafik Abd Al Salam, Sheikh Abdullah said Tunisia's example showed "that there is another path, a path that caters for all, a path that increases patriotism".
Mr Al Salam said the UAE had offered to provide Tunisia with US$200 million that would mainly go on reviving the country's healthcare system. "This will help us in medical needs," he said. "Tunisia needs to improve equipment and health services. People's needs are great in the interior."
Sheikh Abdullah said the UAE's total investment in Tunisia was worth around US$2.5 billion.
"Right now there are great opportunities, especially in investment," Sheikh Abdullah said.
In addition, the two countries have signed several deals tying UAE funds to projects that cover rural areas, roads and debt.
"We can say Tunisia passed the difficult time, Tunisia now enjoys stable policy and security. It is natural that there will be some difficulties ... as the country witnesses big political transition," said Mr Abd Al Salam.
He said the "new Tunisia" had a more open approach to other Arab countries, "especially the Gulf, and particularly UAE".
Asked about the recent visit to Tunisia by a large delegation from Iran led by its foreign minister, in the light of the recent tensions between the UAE and Iran over Gulf islands, Mr Al Salam said: "There is no special relation with Iran ... "[it is] very normal to accept the Iranian foreign minister."
He said two previous visits had been cancelled, and the last one last month had already been rescheduled.
Sheikh Abdullah added that Tunisia had take "a strong and supporting role in the last Arab meeting on the Iranian occupation of the islands." He thanked the minister for his country's support.
Questioned about reports that Tunisia had interfered in other countries' internal affairs, including Syria and Bahrain, Mr Abd Al Salam said: "It is not true."
He said Tunisia was not "exporting" revolts. "It is not a can of sardine or tomato to export," he said. "Our stability and security is tied to stability and security of other countries and [vice versa]."