'Nothing is clear': Libyan-Tunisian border crossing still closed as talks stall

#LibyaCrisis

Ras Ajdir, a key route for travellers and trade, was closed 10 days ago following attacks on Libyans and protests over anti-smuggling measures

Tunisian police stand guard at Ras Ajdir during an earlier closure of the border crossing in 2015 (AFP)
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Last update: 
Thursday 26 July 2018 12:15 UTC
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ZUWARA, Libya - Libyan and Tunisian officials were unable to come to an agreement to reopen the key Ras Ajdir border crossing on Wednesday in a meeting which came after more than 10 days of closure.

“We don’t know how long it will take to solve,” a Libyan official told Middle East Eye, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

“Nothing is clear, it could be another week to 10 days before we come to an agreement,” he said, adding that the Tunisian delegation had come to the meeting with a lot of conditions. 

Ras Ajdir, a critical border crossing between Tunisia and Libya, where everything from tinned tomatoes to fuel passes back and forth daily, was closed to traffic on 10 July after attacks on Libyan travellers in the Tunisian border town of Ben Gardane intensified. 

Tunisian smugglers closed the roads between Ras Ajdir and the rest of Tunisia in protest against restrictions imposed by Libyan authorities earlier this month to prevent smuggling of fuel and subsidised goods from Libya.

Whilst the crossing reopened briefly, it was closed again by the local Libyan authorities on 15 July following further attacks on travellers. The Tunisian side is also closed to people trying to enter Libya.

The area has seen repeated clashes over the course of the war as various forces have attempted to take control of the crossing, as well as the western city of Zuwara's port.

"Libyan cars are being hit with bricks, sticks, anything they have,” Mohamed Mohamed, a Libyan security worker, told MEE.

“They aren’t even letting ambulances pass,” he added, referring to the protesters.

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Seven years on: Tunisia's legacies of neglect

Tunisia's informal economy has steadily expanded in recent years as formal employment opportunities for the country's growing young population have dwindled. It produces more than a third of Tunisia's GDP and is the primary employer of young Tunisians.

The informal economy employs around 60 percent of working men and 83 percent of working women under the age of 40.

Informal jobs are disproportionately prominent in the southern and interior regions and take a wide variety of forms – including people selling on the side of roads or in weekly markets and smuggling goods across the borders with Libya and Algeria.