2 - 8 December 1999
Issue No. 458
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
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PRESIDENT Hosni Mubarak held talks over two days with his Tunisian counterpart Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali this week to discuss the Middle East peace process, regional economic issues, Egypt's bid to join the Arab Maghreb Union and Cairo's ongoing partnership negotiations with the European Union.
Ben Ali arrived in Cairo on Monday afternoon accompanied by a top ministerial team, as well as a large delegation of businessmen. Upon his arrival, Ben Ali said that relations with Egypt are based on "common denominators, moderation, openness and tolerance". The Tunisian president last visited Egypt in 1996, when he signed a set of economic and trade agreements. After talks with Mubarak, which were held over a dinner banquet on Monday and lunch the next day, Ben Ali said that his visit was "very beneficial", giving him the opportunity "to promote cooperation between our two brotherly states and exchange views on issues of common interest".
Prime Minister Atef Ebeid said that the bilateral talks aimed to "nurture economic ties", and that Egypt should "benefit from Tunisia's experience in signing a partnership agreement with the EU". The foreign ministers, ministers of industry and ministers of international cooperation on both sides met separately to discuss bilateral issues. During the visit, Egyptian and Tunisian officials discussed preparations for a meeting of the Joint Egyptian-Tunisian Supreme Committee, which will be held next March.
Members of the Egyptian-Tunisian Businessmen's Council also met on the second day of the visit, hours before they flew home on Tuesday, to discuss ways of boosting trade and investment between Cairo and Tunis. The two sides hope to more than triple the annual volume of trade between them to reach the figure of $300 million within the next two years. In 1998, the two capitals signed an agreement calling for free trade between them by 2007.
While in Cairo, Ben Ali also held talks with Arab League Secretary-General Esmat Abdel-Meguid to discuss regional issues and ways of promoting Arab-Arab cooperation in all fields.