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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Mohammed bin Salman takes in Tunisia on tour

The Saudi Crown Prince visited the north African country ahead of his attendance at the G20 summit

Tunisian President Beij Caid Essebsi threw a state dinner on Tuesday evening for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after delegations from the two countries held working meetings to discuss areas of cooperation.

On the fourth leg of Prince Mohammed’s regional tour ahead of the G20 summit in Argentina on Friday, the delegation of princes, ministers and officials met their Tunisian counterparts to discuss “the steady development in bilateral relations since the presidential visit to Riyadh in December 2015,” the final communique of the visit stated.

"[They discussed] ways to strengthen cooperation in a number of priority areas, such as the economy and finance, investment promotion, security and military cooperation to counter the risks of extremism and terrorism and exchange experiences and expertise in scientific and cultural fields," the statement reported.

The two countries also discussed Tunisia’s preparations to host the 30th Arab League Summit in March 2019.

The talks came a day before Prince Mohammed landed in Buenos Aires to attend the G20 summit where he was expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other world leaders just days before a crucial meeting of Opec and allied oil producers in Vienna.

Riyadh is expected to make a bid for Russia's cooperation on curbing crude output next year after oil plunged back into a bear market.

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The Saudi delegation that accompanied the Prince Mohammed to Tunisia included the Foreign Minister, Adel Jubeir, Prince Turki bin Mohammed, adviser to the Royal Court, Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud, the minister of interior and the head of general intelligence Khalid Al Humaidan.

During the state dinner, the Tunisian president awarded Prince Salman the Order of the Republic medal.

A number of political and civil society groups criticised the Saudi Crown Prince’s visit, with some 200 people gathering in Tunis to demonstrate against his arrival.

While many of the banners referred to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, others said that the prince did not represent the values of the Tunisian revolution that ousted long-term leader Zine Abedine Ben Ali in 2011.

Despite Saudi Arabia long supporting Tunisia with development and aid money, many in the country were angered by the kingdom hosting Mr Ben Ali after he fled the country in the face of mass demonstrations.