Tunisia

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Overview
<p>Tunisia is the country where the &ldquo;Arab Spring&rdquo; of revolutions began.&nbsp;On December 17, 2010, 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi, who was the only wage earner in his extended family of eight in the town of Sidi Bouzid 190 miles south of Tunis, Tunisia, had no idea that his actions that day would light a fire of revolution that would burn across the Arab world.&nbsp;Bouazizi sold vegetables from a cart, which a policewoman confiscated on the grounds it was unlicensed.&nbsp;Bouazizi tried to pay the fine, but the policewoman slapped him, spat in his face, and insulted his dead father.&nbsp;Humiliated, Bouazizi went to provincial government headquarters to complain to local officials, but was refused admission.&nbsp;At 11:30 am (only an hour after the initial confrontation), Bouazizi returned to headquarters, doused himself with a flammable liquid and set himself on fire.&nbsp;Public outrage quickly grew over the incident, leading to protests against high unemployment, food inflation, corruption, lack of free speech and other political freedoms, and poor living conditions. The protests were the biggest in Tunisia since 1987, when President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali had replaced the aging President Habib Bourguiba.&nbsp;The protests soon grew in size and intensity, and led to the ouster of President Ben Ali 28 days later on January 14, 2011. The protests inspired similar actions throughout the Arab world; the Egyptian revolution began after the events in Tunisia and also led to the overthrow of <a href="../../../nation/Egypt">Egypt</a>'s longtime president Hosni Mubarak. Protests also took place in <a href="../../../nation/Algeria">Algeria</a>, <a href="../../../nation/Yemen">Yemen</a>, <a href="../../../nation/Jordan">Jordan</a>, <a href="../../../nation/Syria">Syria</a>, <a href="../../../nation/Bahrain">Bahrain</a>, <a href="../../../nation/Iraq">Iraq</a>, Mauritania and <a href="../../../nation/Libya">Libya</a>.&nbsp;</p>
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Basic Information
<p><b>Lay of the Land</b>: Tunisia is the northernmost country in Africa, lying halfway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Nile River delta, with Algeria to the west, Libya to the east and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east.&nbsp;With an area of 64,000 square miles, Tunisia is slightly smaller than Wisconsin, and is the smallest country in North Africa.&nbsp;Though small, Tunisia&rsquo;s 492 mile length from north to south creates great environmental and climatic diversity, characterized by decreasing rainfall moving southward.&nbsp;An abrupt southward turn of the Mediterranean coast in northern Tunisia creates two separate coasts, running west to east in the north, and north to south in the east.&nbsp;Northern Tunisia consists of the mountainous eastern extension of Algeria&rsquo;s Atlas Mountains, and fertile valleys and plains, including the Sahel, a broad coastal plain along Tunisia&rsquo;s eastern Mediterranean coast, which is one of the world&rsquo;s premier areas of olive growing.&nbsp;Central Tunisia is dominated by the Tell, a region characterized by low, rolling hills and plains, sometimes referred to as steppes.&nbsp;Much of the southern half of the country is semi-arid and desert, and merges into the Sahara.&nbsp;The capital and largest city of Tunis, which became the capital in 1159 after centuries of being a suburb to the ancient city of Carthage, is home to more than 750,000 Tunisians, though that number swells to 2.4 million, or nearly one in four Tunisians, if one counts the entire metropolitan area.&nbsp;</p> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><b>Population</b>: 10.6 million</div> <div><b>Religions</b>: Sunni Islam 99.5%, Shi&rsquo;a Islam &lt;0.5%, Christian 0.2%, Jewish &lt;0.1%</div> <div><b>Ethnic Groups</b>: Arab/Berber 98%, European 1%, Jewish and other 1%</div> <div><b>Languages</b>: Tunisian Arabic 99%, French 0.1%; Arabic is the official language of Tunisia, while French is the unofficial second language of commerce and administration.</div>
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History
<p>Although part of the continent of Africa, the land of Tunisia, like the rest of coastal North Africa, has long been much more a part of the Mediterranean Sea basin.&nbsp;The Berbers, a people who now inhabit the lands of North Africa lying between the Sahara and the Mediterranean Sea, from Egypt to <a href="../../../nation/Morocco">Morocco</a>, were present in Tunisia by the end of the second millennium BCE.&nbsp;They were primarily settled farmers, though some were nomadic.&nbsp;Phoenician traders, whose homeland of Phoenicia was located roughly where modern-day <a href="../../../nation/Lebanon">Lebanon</a> and coastal <a href="../../../nation/Israel">Israel</a> are, started to establish trading ports along Tunisia&rsquo;s Mediterranean coast in the twelfth century BC.&nbsp;One of these, Carthage, was founded in 814 BC on the Gulf of Tunis, very close to the modern day metropolis of Tunis.&nbsp;Originally a dependency of Tyre, Carthage gained independence around 650 BC and established an empire over most of the Western Mediterranean that lasted until 146 BC.&nbsp;Carthage, however, was in a constant state of conflict with the Roman Republic, leading to a series of wars known as the Punic Wars.&nbsp;The great Carthaginian general Hannibal accomplished the monumental trans-Alpine attack on Rome (including elephants) in 211 BC and inflicted huge losses on the Romans until choosing suicide over capture in 183 BC.&nbsp;After the third and final Punic War, Roman forces in 146 BC destroyed Carthage and occupied its former territory, including the northern half of modern Tunisia.&nbsp;The Romans soon rebuilt Carthage as an important center of trade and administration for the province of Africa, which consisted of Rome&rsquo;s African possessions west of Egypt, including Tunisia.&nbsp;Roman Africa, along with Egypt, became the premier centers of grain growing in the empire.&nbsp;In the 5th century, as Rome went into decline, Tunisia fell to the Vandals, Visigoths, and then Byzantine Greeks in rapid succession.&nbsp;</p> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Arabs conquered the region in the 7th century, bringing their civilization and Islam, to which most of the Berbers converted, so that today Tunisia, where 99% of the population is Muslim, is one of the world&rsquo;s most religiously homogenous countries.&nbsp;During the centuries of the medieval era, Tunisia was governed by a succession of Islamic caliphates, starting with the Ummayads, who conquered North Africa (which they called Ifriquiya) and in 670 established their regional capital at the city of <a href="http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/499">Al Qayrawan</a> (or Kerouan) in central Tunisia, which is today a UNESCO World Heritage City valued for its historical and cultural significance.&nbsp;The Arab Ummayads ruled Tunisia from Damascus, Syria, until their fall and replacement by the Abbasids in 750, but growing Berber resistance to rule from so far away led Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab, a provincial leader, to propose to the renowned Abbasid caliph <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harun_al-Rashid">Harun al-Rashid</a> (the caliph whose Baghdad court was immortalized in the &ldquo;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Book_of_One_Thousand_and_One_Nights">1001 Nights</a>&rdquo;) that he be granted hereditary rule over Ifriqiya with the title of amir, to which the caliph agreed in 800.&nbsp;Thereafter, although the Abbasid caliphs received annual tribute and their suzerainty was recognized at Friday prayers, their power was largely symbolic.&nbsp;The Aghlabids consisted mainly of Arabs who had done well in their new home, while the Berbers remained divided, with some supporting the Aghlabids and others the Rustamid kingdom, whose capital at Tahert was in the mountains southwest of modern Algiers.&nbsp;Lasting more than 150 years (from 776 to 909), the Rustamid kingdom included not only the lands around Tahert, but mostly the territory between the Mediterranean coast and the Sahara desert as far east as Tripolitania and Jebel Nefusa in modern Libya.&nbsp;</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>During the nine centuries between the rise of the Fatimid Empire in 909 and the beginnings of French imperial control in 1881, Tunisia was ruled by a succession of Muslim dynastic empires, yet managed to maintain some degree of local autonomy.&nbsp;The Shi&rsquo;a Fatimids had their beginnings in nearby Algeria, from which they conquered the Rustamids, and even as they carried their conquest of the Muslim world eastward, moving their capital to the newly-founded city of Cairo, Egypt, the peoples of Tunisia enjoyed autonomy within the empire, while a succession of Berber states maintained their independence until 1574, when they were conquered by the Ottoman Turks.&nbsp;After the Fatimids came the Almohads (1130-1248), the Hafsids (1230-1574) and finally the Ottoman Turks (1574-1881), though a portion of the coast was ruled for a few decades (1135-1160) by the Christian Norman King Roger II of Sicily.&nbsp;Under the Ottomans, Tunisia was likewise able to assert its autonomy, though its local rulers were Turkish-speaking elites.&nbsp;By the late eighteenth century, however, the glaring weaknesses of the Ottomans were spurring efforts to reform the empire&rsquo;s state and social institutions.&nbsp;The Ottoman governor of Tunisia, Ahmad Bey (1806-1855), attempted to follow the reform current by modernizing Tunisian society, economy and politics, issuing the first written constitution in the Muslim world.&nbsp;Tunisian international debt, however, like that of the empire itself, grew unmanageable, which provided the pretext for French forces to establish a Protectorate in 1881.&nbsp;</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>From 1881 to 1956, Tunisia was ruled by non-Muslims for the first time since the arrival of Islam in 670.&nbsp;Despite valuable French investments in Tunisian infrastructure, Tunisians recognized exploitation when they saw it, and began agitating for independence virtually the moment the French took over.&nbsp;Especially irksome was the blatant favoritism shown by the French-run government to French settlers in Tunisia, who by the 1950s would number more than 750,000.&nbsp;Further, native Tunisians were also very critical of the ways in which the government assisted these settlers in acquiring land, which the Tunisians charged often involved fraud, coercion, or legal trickery.&nbsp;In 1911 and 1912, these movements came to a head in a series of strikes, boycotts and demonstration, culminating in the deaths of Tunisian protesters and a French declaration of martial law.&nbsp;</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>After World War I, pro-independence Tunisians took up politics again, as leaders like 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Tha'alibi founded the Destour (Constitution) Party in 1920, though this party did not survive into the 1930s.&nbsp;A new generation of activists, led by future Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba, founded the Neo-Destour party in 1934.&nbsp;During World War II, some Tunisians supported the Germans because they were the enemies of the French, but Bourguiba cautioned against this, though he himself accepted Italian protection from the Vichy French during the war.&nbsp;After the war, Bourguiba resumed political activism under the Neo-Dastour banner, but French intransigence, not only to Tunisia&rsquo;s independence but to that of Algeria and Morocco, meant armed resistance had to begin in 1954, leading to a 1955 agreement granting Tunisia independence as a kingdom under French protection, and an independence date of March 20, 1956.&nbsp;In April 1956, Bourguiba formed the first government of independent Tunisia, and on July 25 1957, the Constituent Assembly, which had already established a republic and named itself as the country&rsquo;s legislature, elected Bourguiba President and deposed the king.&nbsp;A new constitution was put into effect on June 1, 1959.&nbsp;Bourguiba won the first presidential election in 1959 and was reelected in 1964, 1969, and 1974, when the National Assembly amended the constitution to name him president for life.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>The Bourguiba regime ran the Tunisian government strictly and efficiently, and with an eye toward suppressing corruption and promoting fair dealing, but it also chose to run government without a democratic political system.&nbsp;Bourguiba dominated the country for 31 years, from 1956 to 1987.&nbsp;His policies yielded social stability and economic growth, repressed Islamic fundamentalism in favor of a populist secularism, and established rights for women unmatched by any other Arab nation.&nbsp;&nbsp; Bourguiba was largely responsible for the emergence of Tunisia as a modern country with a good standard of living, but his inclination to arbitrary decision making, non-democratic political methods and a mild sort of personality cult, detracted from his legacy.&nbsp;After independence, Tunsia&rsquo;s economic policy had been mainly to promote light industry and tourism, develop its phosphate deposits, and rely on the agricultural sector, with its many small farms, to feed the nation and produce a surplus for trade, but the small farms did not produce well.&nbsp;In the early 1960s the economy slowed down, and an avowedly socialist program of public works, agricultural cooperatives and public-sector industrialization aroused intense opposition even within Bourguiba&rsquo;s own party, which was renamed the Socialist Destour Party for a short while.&nbsp;Although some of these programs were discontinued in the early 1970s, (between 1987 and 1995 Tunisia privatized 67 of the government&rsquo;s 189 companies), the discovery of oil, increasing tourism and growing foreign investment led to strong growth.&nbsp;Nevertheless, agricultural problems and urban unemployment led to increased migration to Europe for work, and the economy faltered in the early 1980s.&nbsp;Austerity imposed by the <a href="http://www.imf.org/external/index.htm">International Monetary F</a>und caused increases in the price of bread, which led to widespread protest riots during 1983.&nbsp;Islamic fundamentalism surged and Bourguiba reacted with repression: Thousands were jailed, especially Islamists; critical newspapers were closed, disruptive trade unions disbanded.&nbsp;</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Perhaps with the diplomatic assistance of <a href="../../../nation/Italy">Italy</a>, Bourguiba&rsquo;s Prime Minister, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, in 1987 declared that Bourguiba had become medically incapable of leading the country, and that Ben Ali would become the new President of Tunisia.&nbsp;When President Ben Ali came to power, he promised more democracy and respect for human rights.&nbsp;He oversaw constitutional and legal changes, including abolition of the concept of president for life, the fixing of presidential term limits (which Ben Ali later got the people to revoke so that he could run for a fifth term in 2009), and provision for more opposition party participation in politics.&nbsp;But the ruling party, renamed the Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD), continued to dominate the political scene, Ben Ali winning reelection with 99.44% of the vote in 1999, 94.49% in 2004, and 89% in 2009.&nbsp;Economically, Ben Ali&rsquo;s regime marked a turn to the right for Tunisia, as Ben Ali was very friendly to multinational corporations and their investments in Tunisia, and privatized several publicly owned industries.&nbsp;As a result, economic growth was strong in Tunisia during the 1990s and early 2000s.&nbsp;Left out of that prosperity, however, were many rural and urban poor, including small businesses facing the world market and college educated youth who could not find employment commensurate to their skills.&nbsp;</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>This economic suffering and uncertainty was the underlying cause of the mass protests that started in December 2010 and ran into 2011, which not only led to the ouster of Ben Ali after 24 years, but ushered in the Arab Spring that saw the toppling of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and revolutionary movements in Syria, Bahrain, Algeria, Jordan, Mauritania, and other countries in the region.&nbsp;</div>
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Tunisia's Newspapers
<p><a href="http://www.letemps.com.tn/">Le Temps</a></p> <div><a href="http://www.lapresse.tn/">La Presse de Tunisie</a></div> <div><a href="http://www.lequotidien-tn.com/">Le Quotidien</a></div> <div><a href="http://www.tunishebdo.com.tn/">Tunis Hebdo</a></div> <div><a href="http://www.tunisiadaily.com/">Tunisia Daily</a></div>
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History of U.S. Relations with Tunisia
<p>The U.S. has good relations with Tunisia, which go back more than 200 years, to the arrival of the first American ambassador to Tunisia (then the Amir of Tunis?) in 1795 and the subsequent signing of the American Friendship Treaty with Tunisia in 1797. &nbsp;Although there are no security treaties between the U.S. and Tunisia, relations have been close since Tunisian independence in 1956.&nbsp;U.S.-Tunisian relations suffered briefly after the 1985 Israeli raid on PLO headquarters in Tunis, after the 1988 assassination of PLO terrorist Abu Jihad in Tunis, and in 1990 during the Gulf War.&nbsp;Each time, however, the long history of strong bilateral ties caused relations to improve again quickly.&nbsp;The United States and Tunisia conduct not infrequent joint military exercises, and U.S. money for Tunisia&rsquo;s military has long played an important role in cementing relations. The U.S.-Tunisian Joint Military Commission meets annually to discuss military cooperation, Tunisia&rsquo;s defense modernization program, and other security matters.</p> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>The United States first provided economic and technical assistance to Tunisia under a bilateral agreement signed March 26, 1957. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) managed a successful program before it left in 1994, when Tunisia&rsquo;s economic advances led to the country&rsquo;s &ldquo;graduation&rdquo; from USAID funding. Tunisia has supported the U.S.-North African Economic Partnership (USNAEP), designed to promote U.S. investment interests in Tunisia and the rest of the Maghreb region. The program provided over $4 million in assistance to Tunisia between 2001 and 2003. The United States also supports Tunisia's civil society and economic development through bilateral Economic Support Funds programs.</div>
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Current U.S. Relations with Tunisia
<p>Relations remain close between the two governments, although they were certainly very strained during January 2011, as the U.S. attempted to ease Ben Ali out of power and the longtime U.S. ally expressed his displeasure at what he saw as Yankee disloyalty.&nbsp;Since the revolution, the new governments have been eager to maintain friendly relations with the U.S., as well as to continue to engage in joint anti-terrorism activities.&nbsp;</p> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>According to the Census Bureau, there are slightly more than 20,000 Tunisians in the U.S. &nbsp;</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><a href="http://www.tunisiancommunity.org/">Tunisian Community Center</a></div> <div>&nbsp;</div>
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Where Does the Money Flow
<p>The United States enjoys a favorable trade balance with Tunisia, averaging $66.5 million more in exports than imports over the past three years, 2008-2010, though in 2008 the balance actually ran in Tunisia&rsquo;s favor, by $141.6 million.&nbsp;In 2010, U.S. exports were dominated by soybeans, oilseeds and food oils ($154.2 million or 27%); corn, sorghum, barley and oats ($53.8 million or 9.4%); other petroleum products ($34 million or 5.9%); chemicals ($27.1 million or 4.7%); plastic materials ($25.6 million or 4.4%); industrial engines ($25 million or 4.3%); drilling and oilfield equipment ($24.4 million or 4.2%); pulpwood and woodpulp ($20.3 million or 3.5%); and medicinal equipment ($11.8 million or 2%).&nbsp;U.S. imports from Tunisia in 2010 were led by food oils and oilseeds ($81.8 million or 20.1%); apparel and household goods made of cotton, wool or other textiles ($71.9 million or 17.7%); crude oil ($54.3 million or 13.3%); jewelry ($37.1 million or 9.15%); fuel oil ($30.5 million or 7.5%); industrial engines, pumps, compressors &amp; generators ($20.9 million or 5.15%); fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides ($19.2 million or 4.7%); electric apparatus and parts ($15.1 million or 3.7%); and telecommunications equipment ($10.1 million or 2.5%).&nbsp;</p> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>U.S. aid to Tunisia, which stood at $21.9 million in 2010, is set to decline to only $6.5 million in 2012.&nbsp;Of that $21.9 million, only $2 million did not go to military purposes, and the entire 2012 request is military-related as well.&nbsp;</div> <div><a href="http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c7230.html">U.S. Trade with Tunisia</a></div> <div><a href="http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c7230.html">U.S. Exports to Tunisia</a></div> <div><a href="http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/statistics/product/enduse/imports/c7230.html">U.S. Imports from Tunisia</a></div> <div><a href="http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/158268.pdf">Congressional Budget Justification FY 2012</a> (pages 561-563) (pdf)</div> <div><a href="http://www.tacc.org.tn/site/publish/content/default.asp?">Tunisian American Chamber of Commerce</a></div> <div>&nbsp;</div>
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Controversies
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Human Rights
<p>Although the Tunisian Constitution sets forth protections for civil and political rights, in fact the regime of President Ben Ali often did not respect those rights.&nbsp;There were significant limitations on citizens' right to change their government, so the citizens took to the streets, organized themselves, and toppled their ruler.&nbsp;Prior to that, severe restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, and association worsened in the period before and after the October 2009 elections.&nbsp;The government did not tolerate public criticism, and it used intimidation, criminal investigations, the judicial system, arbitrary arrests, residential restrictions, and travel controls to discourage criticism. Corruption among government officials was a problem.&nbsp;The security forces tortured and physically abused prisoners and detainees and arbitrarily arrested and detained individuals, acting with impunity under the silent approval of high-ranking officials.&nbsp;There were also reports of lengthy pretrial and incommunicado detention, and prison conditions generally did not meet international standards, as overcrowding and poor medical care posed real threats to prisoners' health.&nbsp;Although the law provides for an independent judiciary, the executive branch and the president strongly influenced judicial procedures, especially in cases concerning political dissidents and oppositionists.&nbsp;Although the constitution provides for freedom of religion and the right to practice the rites of one's religion unless they disturb the public order, the government imposes some restrictions on this right, including the constitutional stipulation that the country is determined to adhere to the teachings of Islam, that Islam is the official state religion, and that the president is required to be Muslim.</p> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><a href="http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/nea/154474.htm">State Department Human Rights Report</a></div> <div><a href="http://www.hrw.org/middle-eastn-africa/tunisia">Human Rights Watch</a></div> <div><a href="http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/tunisia">Amnesty International</a></div>
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Debate
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Past Ambassadors
<p>Morris N. Hughes, June 6, 1956 to October 4, 1956</p> <div>G. Lewis Jones, July 27, 1956 to June 11, 1959</div> <div>Walter N. Walmsley, July 28, 1959 to July 25, 1962</div> <div>Francis H. Russell, September 10, 1962 to July 18, 1969</div> <div>John A. Calhoun, July 8, 1969 to May 31, 1972</div> <div>Talcott W. Seelye, September 11, 1972 to March 22, 1976</div> <div>Edward W. Mulcahy, March 4, 1976 to January 5, 1979</div> <div>Stephen Warren Bosworth, February 9, 1979 to June 22, 1981</div> <div>Walter Leon Cutler, December 11, 1981 - January 2, 1984</div> <div>Peter Sebastian, June 11, 1984 to February 19, 1987</div> <div>Robert H. Pelletreau, June 15, 1987 to May 11, 1991</div> <div>John T. McCarthy, July 2, 1991 to July 16, 1994</div> <div>Mary Ann Casey, July 5, 1994 to July 18, 1997</div> <div>Robin Lynn Raphel, November 7, 1997 to August 6, 2000</div> <div>Rust McPherson Deming, December 28, 2000 to May 17, 2003</div> <div>William J. Hudson, Dec 12, 2003 to Apr 14, 2006</div> <div>Robert F. Godec, May 30, 2006 to 2009</div>
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Tunisia's Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Tekaya, Mohamed Salah

Tunisia’s Ambassador to the United States, Mohamed Salah Tekaya, presented his credentials to the State Department on October 1, 2010, and then to President Obama on December 7, 2010…only ten days before his countrymen exploded in a revolution that toppled the man who had appointed him ambassador, President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. 

 
Tekaya holds university degrees in Political Science and English Literature. He began his diplomatic career in 1982, serving early on at the Office of the Minister and at the Directorates of Asia, Africa and International Organizations and Conferences. He was at the United Nations as First Secretary (1987-1989) and held the same position at Tunisia’s embassy in the United States (1989-1993). He moved up to Counselor in his nation’s embassy in Norway (1995-1998) and then back at the U.N. (1998-2001).
 
From 2003-2004, Tekaya served as Tunisia’s Ambassador to Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, and then as Ambassador to the Netherlands and Denmark from 2007-2010.
 
At first, Tekaya did his job as Ambassador to the U.S. by presenting the views of Ben Ali’s government, and there must have been some tense and difficult moments during that month of revolutionary uncertainty. For example on January 7, 2011, the State Department “summoned” Tekaya to its headquarters, so that he could hear firsthand about its “concerns about the ability of the people of Tunisia to exercise their rights and freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.” 
 
Since the revolution has succeeded in overthrowing Ben Ali, Tekaya has been able to get back to business as usual, as when he hosted a delegation from the Tunisian American Chamber of Commerce, and touted Tunisia’s continuing openness to business: “The mission illustrates the strong commitment of the Tunisian private sector to move quickly to explain to Tunisia’s partners the hopes that the Revolution has created for the people of Tunisia,” in addition to the “opportunities that a democratic Tunisia can offer American companies.” He has also spoken about the Tunisian Revolution before college audiences, where he has called the revolution, “spontaneous, youthful and leaderless.” He has also had less happy tasks, as when he had to inform the director of New York City’s Tunisian Cultural and Information Center that the new government had decided to defund the project and close the center. 
 
Tekaya is also accredited as ambassador to Mexico and Venezuela.
 

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Tunisia's Embassy Web Site in the U.S.
<p>Link to Web Site of Tunisia<b>&rsquo;s Embassy in the U.S. </b></p> <div>1515 Massachusetts Avenue, NW</div> <div>Washington DC 20005</div> <div>Telephone: (202) 862-1850</div> <div>Fax: (202) 862-1858</div>
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U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia

Walles, Jake
ambassador-image

The North African nation of Tunisia, where the recent wave of Arab revolutions began in December 2010, will soon have a new Ambassador from the United States. President Barack Obama on December 14, 2011, nominated career diplomat Jacob “Jake” Walles for the post, which is his first ambassadorship, although he has extensive experience in Middle East relations. He was confirmed by the Senate on March 29, 2012.

 
Born in July 1957 in Wilmington, Delaware, Walles earned a B.A. at Wesleyan University in 1979 and an M.A. at the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University in 1981. He joined the State Department in 1982, and was immediately posted overseas, to serve as Vice Consul at the embassy in Amsterdam, Netherlands, from 1982 to 1984.
 
Over the next decade, he served as first secretary at the embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, as Special Assistant for the Middle East Peace Process in the Near East Bureau in Washington, DC, and as special assistant to the under secretary for Economic Affairs. He returned to Israel to serve as deputy principal officer at the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem from 1996 to 1998, and then applied his growing Mideast expertise to two stateside assignments, as director of the Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs from 1998 to 2000, and as acting deputy assistant secretary for Near East Affairs from January to June 2001.
 
From September 2001 to June 2002, Walles was a member of the 44th Senior Seminar at the State Department. He received his second European posting as deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Athens, Greece, from June 2003 to July 2005, where he coordinated U.S. participation in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
 
Walles went back to Israel for a third time as consul general and chief of mission at the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem from July 2005 to September 2009. As the U.S. diplomat stationed closest to Palestine, Walles was involved in his share of controversy as it often fell to him to be the front man for the George W. Bush administration’s blundering policy towards the Palestinians. After pushing for parliamentary elections in Palestine in 2006, the Bush team, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, was caught off guard when voters, tired of the corruption and incompetence of the Fatah party favored by the Americans, gave a legislative majority to Hamas, which the U.S. viewed as an anti-Israel, anti-American terrorist group. At one point Walles met with the Palestinian president, Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, and promised U.S. support if Abbas would force a military confrontation with Hamas. Fighting between the two groups did break out, but by the time the smoke cleared, Hamas was still in charge of the Gaza Strip.
 
In January 2008, Walles was involved in a controversy when, at a checkpoint operated by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), he and U.S. Security Coordinator Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton refused to roll down their windows or open their car doors to show identification. Walles also incurred the ire of the Israeli government in September 2008 when he told a Palestinian newspaper that the Americans and Israelis were willing to negotiate the status of Jerusalem.
 
After leaving Jerusalem, Walles moved on to a less volatile position, becoming Cyrus Vance fellow for diplomatic studies at the Council on Foreign Relations from late 2009 to early 2010.
 
Walles returned to the State Department to serve as deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East Affairs from June 2010 to December 2011.
 
Like most Foreign Service officers, Walles has been relatively non-partisan, but he made an exception in 2008, when he donated $1,450 to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
 
 
 

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Previous U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia

Gray, Gordon
ambassador-image

President Barack Obama nominated an experienced diplomat to be the US ambassador to Tunisia. Gordon Gray III, who was confirmed by the Senate on July 10, 2009, has almost 30 years experience in the Foreign Service, most of it in positions dealing with the Middle East. Gray succeeds career diplomat Robert F. Godec. Since the opening of the U.S. embassy in Tunis, only career diplomats have held this post. Gray’s father and grandfather were involved in the radio and TV industries in New York. At the time of his death in 1991, his father, Gordon Gray, Jr., was national sales manager in New York for the Christian Broadcasting Network. Born circa 1956 and raised in New York, Gordon Gray III earned a B.A. from Yale University in 1978. He then served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Oued Zem, Morocco, from 1978 to 1980. Returning to academia, he earned a Master’s in International Affairs from Columbia University in 1982. 

 
Shortly after earning his Master’s degree, Gray joined the Foreign Service in 1982. He married Connie Bentivegna of Montreal in November of that year while he was studying Urdu at the Foreign Service Institute. His early overseas service included stints in Pakistan, Jordan, and Canada, while he held Washington assignments in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and the Bureau of South Asian Affairs and on the Soviet desk. As he gained seniority and expertise, Gray earned appointments to key offices in the State Department, including as the Director of the counterterrorism regional affairs office (1996 to 1999), the office of peacekeeping and humanitarian operations (1999 to 2001), and the office of Arabian Peninsula affairs (2001 to 2002). Gray returned to the Middle East in 2002 to serve as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Egypt until 2005. During that assignment, Gray was the first U.S. diplomat to travel to Libya in 2004. Back in Washington, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs from 2005 to 2008, where his responsibilities included the promotion of U.S. interests in the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa, and oversight of the Bureau’s Regional Affairs office.  Most recently, he served as Senior Advisor to the Ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq from June 2008 until May 2009.     
 
Gray and his wife Connie have two sons and one daughter. He enjoys distance running and has run marathons in Egypt, Europe, and the United States. 
 

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Overview
<p>Tunisia is the country where the &ldquo;Arab Spring&rdquo; of revolutions began.&nbsp;On December 17, 2010, 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi, who was the only wage earner in his extended family of eight in the town of Sidi Bouzid 190 miles south of Tunis, Tunisia, had no idea that his actions that day would light a fire of revolution that would burn across the Arab world.&nbsp;Bouazizi sold vegetables from a cart, which a policewoman confiscated on the grounds it was unlicensed.&nbsp;Bouazizi tried to pay the fine, but the policewoman slapped him, spat in his face, and insulted his dead father.&nbsp;Humiliated, Bouazizi went to provincial government headquarters to complain to local officials, but was refused admission.&nbsp;At 11:30 am (only an hour after the initial confrontation), Bouazizi returned to headquarters, doused himself with a flammable liquid and set himself on fire.&nbsp;Public outrage quickly grew over the incident, leading to protests against high unemployment, food inflation, corruption, lack of free speech and other political freedoms, and poor living conditions. The protests were the biggest in Tunisia since 1987, when President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali had replaced the aging President Habib Bourguiba.&nbsp;The protests soon grew in size and intensity, and led to the ouster of President Ben Ali 28 days later on January 14, 2011. The protests inspired similar actions throughout the Arab world; the Egyptian revolution began after the events in Tunisia and also led to the overthrow of <a href="../../../nation/Egypt">Egypt</a>'s longtime president Hosni Mubarak. Protests also took place in <a href="../../../nation/Algeria">Algeria</a>, <a href="../../../nation/Yemen">Yemen</a>, <a href="../../../nation/Jordan">Jordan</a>, <a href="../../../nation/Syria">Syria</a>, <a href="../../../nation/Bahrain">Bahrain</a>, <a href="../../../nation/Iraq">Iraq</a>, Mauritania and <a href="../../../nation/Libya">Libya</a>.&nbsp;</p>
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Basic Information
<p><b>Lay of the Land</b>: Tunisia is the northernmost country in Africa, lying halfway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Nile River delta, with Algeria to the west, Libya to the east and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east.&nbsp;With an area of 64,000 square miles, Tunisia is slightly smaller than Wisconsin, and is the smallest country in North Africa.&nbsp;Though small, Tunisia&rsquo;s 492 mile length from north to south creates great environmental and climatic diversity, characterized by decreasing rainfall moving southward.&nbsp;An abrupt southward turn of the Mediterranean coast in northern Tunisia creates two separate coasts, running west to east in the north, and north to south in the east.&nbsp;Northern Tunisia consists of the mountainous eastern extension of Algeria&rsquo;s Atlas Mountains, and fertile valleys and plains, including the Sahel, a broad coastal plain along Tunisia&rsquo;s eastern Mediterranean coast, which is one of the world&rsquo;s premier areas of olive growing.&nbsp;Central Tunisia is dominated by the Tell, a region characterized by low, rolling hills and plains, sometimes referred to as steppes.&nbsp;Much of the southern half of the country is semi-arid and desert, and merges into the Sahara.&nbsp;The capital and largest city of Tunis, which became the capital in 1159 after centuries of being a suburb to the ancient city of Carthage, is home to more than 750,000 Tunisians, though that number swells to 2.4 million, or nearly one in four Tunisians, if one counts the entire metropolitan area.&nbsp;</p> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><b>Population</b>: 10.6 million</div> <div><b>Religions</b>: Sunni Islam 99.5%, Shi&rsquo;a Islam &lt;0.5%, Christian 0.2%, Jewish &lt;0.1%</div> <div><b>Ethnic Groups</b>: Arab/Berber 98%, European 1%, Jewish and other 1%</div> <div><b>Languages</b>: Tunisian Arabic 99%, French 0.1%; Arabic is the official language of Tunisia, while French is the unofficial second language of commerce and administration.</div>
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History
<p>Although part of the continent of Africa, the land of Tunisia, like the rest of coastal North Africa, has long been much more a part of the Mediterranean Sea basin.&nbsp;The Berbers, a people who now inhabit the lands of North Africa lying between the Sahara and the Mediterranean Sea, from Egypt to <a href="../../../nation/Morocco">Morocco</a>, were present in Tunisia by the end of the second millennium BCE.&nbsp;They were primarily settled farmers, though some were nomadic.&nbsp;Phoenician traders, whose homeland of Phoenicia was located roughly where modern-day <a href="../../../nation/Lebanon">Lebanon</a> and coastal <a href="../../../nation/Israel">Israel</a> are, started to establish trading ports along Tunisia&rsquo;s Mediterranean coast in the twelfth century BC.&nbsp;One of these, Carthage, was founded in 814 BC on the Gulf of Tunis, very close to the modern day metropolis of Tunis.&nbsp;Originally a dependency of Tyre, Carthage gained independence around 650 BC and established an empire over most of the Western Mediterranean that lasted until 146 BC.&nbsp;Carthage, however, was in a constant state of conflict with the Roman Republic, leading to a series of wars known as the Punic Wars.&nbsp;The great Carthaginian general Hannibal accomplished the monumental trans-Alpine attack on Rome (including elephants) in 211 BC and inflicted huge losses on the Romans until choosing suicide over capture in 183 BC.&nbsp;After the third and final Punic War, Roman forces in 146 BC destroyed Carthage and occupied its former territory, including the northern half of modern Tunisia.&nbsp;The Romans soon rebuilt Carthage as an important center of trade and administration for the province of Africa, which consisted of Rome&rsquo;s African possessions west of Egypt, including Tunisia.&nbsp;Roman Africa, along with Egypt, became the premier centers of grain growing in the empire.&nbsp;In the 5th century, as Rome went into decline, Tunisia fell to the Vandals, Visigoths, and then Byzantine Greeks in rapid succession.&nbsp;</p> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Arabs conquered the region in the 7th century, bringing their civilization and Islam, to which most of the Berbers converted, so that today Tunisia, where 99% of the population is Muslim, is one of the world&rsquo;s most religiously homogenous countries.&nbsp;During the centuries of the medieval era, Tunisia was governed by a succession of Islamic caliphates, starting with the Ummayads, who conquered North Africa (which they called Ifriquiya) and in 670 established their regional capital at the city of <a href="http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/499">Al Qayrawan</a> (or Kerouan) in central Tunisia, which is today a UNESCO World Heritage City valued for its historical and cultural significance.&nbsp;The Arab Ummayads ruled Tunisia from Damascus, Syria, until their fall and replacement by the Abbasids in 750, but growing Berber resistance to rule from so far away led Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab, a provincial leader, to propose to the renowned Abbasid caliph <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harun_al-Rashid">Harun al-Rashid</a> (the caliph whose Baghdad court was immortalized in the &ldquo;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Book_of_One_Thousand_and_One_Nights">1001 Nights</a>&rdquo;) that he be granted hereditary rule over Ifriqiya with the title of amir, to which the caliph agreed in 800.&nbsp;Thereafter, although the Abbasid caliphs received annual tribute and their suzerainty was recognized at Friday prayers, their power was largely symbolic.&nbsp;The Aghlabids consisted mainly of Arabs who had done well in their new home, while the Berbers remained divided, with some supporting the Aghlabids and others the Rustamid kingdom, whose capital at Tahert was in the mountains southwest of modern Algiers.&nbsp;Lasting more than 150 years (from 776 to 909), the Rustamid kingdom included not only the lands around Tahert, but mostly the territory between the Mediterranean coast and the Sahara desert as far east as Tripolitania and Jebel Nefusa in modern Libya.&nbsp;</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>During the nine centuries between the rise of the Fatimid Empire in 909 and the beginnings of French imperial control in 1881, Tunisia was ruled by a succession of Muslim dynastic empires, yet managed to maintain some degree of local autonomy.&nbsp;The Shi&rsquo;a Fatimids had their beginnings in nearby Algeria, from which they conquered the Rustamids, and even as they carried their conquest of the Muslim world eastward, moving their capital to the newly-founded city of Cairo, Egypt, the peoples of Tunisia enjoyed autonomy within the empire, while a succession of Berber states maintained their independence until 1574, when they were conquered by the Ottoman Turks.&nbsp;After the Fatimids came the Almohads (1130-1248), the Hafsids (1230-1574) and finally the Ottoman Turks (1574-1881), though a portion of the coast was ruled for a few decades (1135-1160) by the Christian Norman King Roger II of Sicily.&nbsp;Under the Ottomans, Tunisia was likewise able to assert its autonomy, though its local rulers were Turkish-speaking elites.&nbsp;By the late eighteenth century, however, the glaring weaknesses of the Ottomans were spurring efforts to reform the empire&rsquo;s state and social institutions.&nbsp;The Ottoman governor of Tunisia, Ahmad Bey (1806-1855), attempted to follow the reform current by modernizing Tunisian society, economy and politics, issuing the first written constitution in the Muslim world.&nbsp;Tunisian international debt, however, like that of the empire itself, grew unmanageable, which provided the pretext for French forces to establish a Protectorate in 1881.&nbsp;</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>From 1881 to 1956, Tunisia was ruled by non-Muslims for the first time since the arrival of Islam in 670.&nbsp;Despite valuable French investments in Tunisian infrastructure, Tunisians recognized exploitation when they saw it, and began agitating for independence virtually the moment the French took over.&nbsp;Especially irksome was the blatant favoritism shown by the French-run government to French settlers in Tunisia, who by the 1950s would number more than 750,000.&nbsp;Further, native Tunisians were also very critical of the ways in which the government assisted these settlers in acquiring land, which the Tunisians charged often involved fraud, coercion, or legal trickery.&nbsp;In 1911 and 1912, these movements came to a head in a series of strikes, boycotts and demonstration, culminating in the deaths of Tunisian protesters and a French declaration of martial law.&nbsp;</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>After World War I, pro-independence Tunisians took up politics again, as leaders like 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Tha'alibi founded the Destour (Constitution) Party in 1920, though this party did not survive into the 1930s.&nbsp;A new generation of activists, led by future Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba, founded the Neo-Destour party in 1934.&nbsp;During World War II, some Tunisians supported the Germans because they were the enemies of the French, but Bourguiba cautioned against this, though he himself accepted Italian protection from the Vichy French during the war.&nbsp;After the war, Bourguiba resumed political activism under the Neo-Dastour banner, but French intransigence, not only to Tunisia&rsquo;s independence but to that of Algeria and Morocco, meant armed resistance had to begin in 1954, leading to a 1955 agreement granting Tunisia independence as a kingdom under French protection, and an independence date of March 20, 1956.&nbsp;In April 1956, Bourguiba formed the first government of independent Tunisia, and on July 25 1957, the Constituent Assembly, which had already established a republic and named itself as the country&rsquo;s legislature, elected Bourguiba President and deposed the king.&nbsp;A new constitution was put into effect on June 1, 1959.&nbsp;Bourguiba won the first presidential election in 1959 and was reelected in 1964, 1969, and 1974, when the National Assembly amended the constitution to name him president for life.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>The Bourguiba regime ran the Tunisian government strictly and efficiently, and with an eye toward suppressing corruption and promoting fair dealing, but it also chose to run government without a democratic political system.&nbsp;Bourguiba dominated the country for 31 years, from 1956 to 1987.&nbsp;His policies yielded social stability and economic growth, repressed Islamic fundamentalism in favor of a populist secularism, and established rights for women unmatched by any other Arab nation.&nbsp;&nbsp; Bourguiba was largely responsible for the emergence of Tunisia as a modern country with a good standard of living, but his inclination to arbitrary decision making, non-democratic political methods and a mild sort of personality cult, detracted from his legacy.&nbsp;After independence, Tunsia&rsquo;s economic policy had been mainly to promote light industry and tourism, develop its phosphate deposits, and rely on the agricultural sector, with its many small farms, to feed the nation and produce a surplus for trade, but the small farms did not produce well.&nbsp;In the early 1960s the economy slowed down, and an avowedly socialist program of public works, agricultural cooperatives and public-sector industrialization aroused intense opposition even within Bourguiba&rsquo;s own party, which was renamed the Socialist Destour Party for a short while.&nbsp;Although some of these programs were discontinued in the early 1970s, (between 1987 and 1995 Tunisia privatized 67 of the government&rsquo;s 189 companies), the discovery of oil, increasing tourism and growing foreign investment led to strong growth.&nbsp;Nevertheless, agricultural problems and urban unemployment led to increased migration to Europe for work, and the economy faltered in the early 1980s.&nbsp;Austerity imposed by the <a href="http://www.imf.org/external/index.htm">International Monetary F</a>und caused increases in the price of bread, which led to widespread protest riots during 1983.&nbsp;Islamic fundamentalism surged and Bourguiba reacted with repression: Thousands were jailed, especially Islamists; critical newspapers were closed, disruptive trade unions disbanded.&nbsp;</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Perhaps with the diplomatic assistance of <a href="../../../nation/Italy">Italy</a>, Bourguiba&rsquo;s Prime Minister, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, in 1987 declared that Bourguiba had become medically incapable of leading the country, and that Ben Ali would become the new President of Tunisia.&nbsp;When President Ben Ali came to power, he promised more democracy and respect for human rights.&nbsp;He oversaw constitutional and legal changes, including abolition of the concept of president for life, the fixing of presidential term limits (which Ben Ali later got the people to revoke so that he could run for a fifth term in 2009), and provision for more opposition party participation in politics.&nbsp;But the ruling party, renamed the Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD), continued to dominate the political scene, Ben Ali winning reelection with 99.44% of the vote in 1999, 94.49% in 2004, and 89% in 2009.&nbsp;Economically, Ben Ali&rsquo;s regime marked a turn to the right for Tunisia, as Ben Ali was very friendly to multinational corporations and their investments in Tunisia, and privatized several publicly owned industries.&nbsp;As a result, economic growth was strong in Tunisia during the 1990s and early 2000s.&nbsp;Left out of that prosperity, however, were many rural and urban poor, including small businesses facing the world market and college educated youth who could not find employment commensurate to their skills.&nbsp;</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>This economic suffering and uncertainty was the underlying cause of the mass protests that started in December 2010 and ran into 2011, which not only led to the ouster of Ben Ali after 24 years, but ushered in the Arab Spring that saw the toppling of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and revolutionary movements in Syria, Bahrain, Algeria, Jordan, Mauritania, and other countries in the region.&nbsp;</div>
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Tunisia's Newspapers
<p><a href="http://www.letemps.com.tn/">Le Temps</a></p> <div><a href="http://www.lapresse.tn/">La Presse de Tunisie</a></div> <div><a href="http://www.lequotidien-tn.com/">Le Quotidien</a></div> <div><a href="http://www.tunishebdo.com.tn/">Tunis Hebdo</a></div> <div><a href="http://www.tunisiadaily.com/">Tunisia Daily</a></div>
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History of U.S. Relations with Tunisia
<p>The U.S. has good relations with Tunisia, which go back more than 200 years, to the arrival of the first American ambassador to Tunisia (then the Amir of Tunis?) in 1795 and the subsequent signing of the American Friendship Treaty with Tunisia in 1797. &nbsp;Although there are no security treaties between the U.S. and Tunisia, relations have been close since Tunisian independence in 1956.&nbsp;U.S.-Tunisian relations suffered briefly after the 1985 Israeli raid on PLO headquarters in Tunis, after the 1988 assassination of PLO terrorist Abu Jihad in Tunis, and in 1990 during the Gulf War.&nbsp;Each time, however, the long history of strong bilateral ties caused relations to improve again quickly.&nbsp;The United States and Tunisia conduct not infrequent joint military exercises, and U.S. money for Tunisia&rsquo;s military has long played an important role in cementing relations. The U.S.-Tunisian Joint Military Commission meets annually to discuss military cooperation, Tunisia&rsquo;s defense modernization program, and other security matters.</p> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>The United States first provided economic and technical assistance to Tunisia under a bilateral agreement signed March 26, 1957. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) managed a successful program before it left in 1994, when Tunisia&rsquo;s economic advances led to the country&rsquo;s &ldquo;graduation&rdquo; from USAID funding. Tunisia has supported the U.S.-North African Economic Partnership (USNAEP), designed to promote U.S. investment interests in Tunisia and the rest of the Maghreb region. The program provided over $4 million in assistance to Tunisia between 2001 and 2003. The United States also supports Tunisia's civil society and economic development through bilateral Economic Support Funds programs.</div>
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Current U.S. Relations with Tunisia
<p>Relations remain close between the two governments, although they were certainly very strained during January 2011, as the U.S. attempted to ease Ben Ali out of power and the longtime U.S. ally expressed his displeasure at what he saw as Yankee disloyalty.&nbsp;Since the revolution, the new governments have been eager to maintain friendly relations with the U.S., as well as to continue to engage in joint anti-terrorism activities.&nbsp;</p> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>According to the Census Bureau, there are slightly more than 20,000 Tunisians in the U.S. &nbsp;</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><a href="http://www.tunisiancommunity.org/">Tunisian Community Center</a></div> <div>&nbsp;</div>
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Where Does the Money Flow
<p>The United States enjoys a favorable trade balance with Tunisia, averaging $66.5 million more in exports than imports over the past three years, 2008-2010, though in 2008 the balance actually ran in Tunisia&rsquo;s favor, by $141.6 million.&nbsp;In 2010, U.S. exports were dominated by soybeans, oilseeds and food oils ($154.2 million or 27%); corn, sorghum, barley and oats ($53.8 million or 9.4%); other petroleum products ($34 million or 5.9%); chemicals ($27.1 million or 4.7%); plastic materials ($25.6 million or 4.4%); industrial engines ($25 million or 4.3%); drilling and oilfield equipment ($24.4 million or 4.2%); pulpwood and woodpulp ($20.3 million or 3.5%); and medicinal equipment ($11.8 million or 2%).&nbsp;U.S. imports from Tunisia in 2010 were led by food oils and oilseeds ($81.8 million or 20.1%); apparel and household goods made of cotton, wool or other textiles ($71.9 million or 17.7%); crude oil ($54.3 million or 13.3%); jewelry ($37.1 million or 9.15%); fuel oil ($30.5 million or 7.5%); industrial engines, pumps, compressors &amp; generators ($20.9 million or 5.15%); fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides ($19.2 million or 4.7%); electric apparatus and parts ($15.1 million or 3.7%); and telecommunications equipment ($10.1 million or 2.5%).&nbsp;</p> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>U.S. aid to Tunisia, which stood at $21.9 million in 2010, is set to decline to only $6.5 million in 2012.&nbsp;Of that $21.9 million, only $2 million did not go to military purposes, and the entire 2012 request is military-related as well.&nbsp;</div> <div><a href="http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c7230.html">U.S. Trade with Tunisia</a></div> <div><a href="http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c7230.html">U.S. Exports to Tunisia</a></div> <div><a href="http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/statistics/product/enduse/imports/c7230.html">U.S. Imports from Tunisia</a></div> <div><a href="http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/158268.pdf">Congressional Budget Justification FY 2012</a> (pages 561-563) (pdf)</div> <div><a href="http://www.tacc.org.tn/site/publish/content/default.asp?">Tunisian American Chamber of Commerce</a></div> <div>&nbsp;</div>
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Controversies
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Human Rights
<p>Although the Tunisian Constitution sets forth protections for civil and political rights, in fact the regime of President Ben Ali often did not respect those rights.&nbsp;There were significant limitations on citizens' right to change their government, so the citizens took to the streets, organized themselves, and toppled their ruler.&nbsp;Prior to that, severe restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, and association worsened in the period before and after the October 2009 elections.&nbsp;The government did not tolerate public criticism, and it used intimidation, criminal investigations, the judicial system, arbitrary arrests, residential restrictions, and travel controls to discourage criticism. Corruption among government officials was a problem.&nbsp;The security forces tortured and physically abused prisoners and detainees and arbitrarily arrested and detained individuals, acting with impunity under the silent approval of high-ranking officials.&nbsp;There were also reports of lengthy pretrial and incommunicado detention, and prison conditions generally did not meet international standards, as overcrowding and poor medical care posed real threats to prisoners' health.&nbsp;Although the law provides for an independent judiciary, the executive branch and the president strongly influenced judicial procedures, especially in cases concerning political dissidents and oppositionists.&nbsp;Although the constitution provides for freedom of religion and the right to practice the rites of one's religion unless they disturb the public order, the government imposes some restrictions on this right, including the constitutional stipulation that the country is determined to adhere to the teachings of Islam, that Islam is the official state religion, and that the president is required to be Muslim.</p> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><a href="http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/nea/154474.htm">State Department Human Rights Report</a></div> <div><a href="http://www.hrw.org/middle-eastn-africa/tunisia">Human Rights Watch</a></div> <div><a href="http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/tunisia">Amnesty International</a></div>
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Debate
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Past Ambassadors
<p>Morris N. Hughes, June 6, 1956 to October 4, 1956</p> <div>G. Lewis Jones, July 27, 1956 to June 11, 1959</div> <div>Walter N. Walmsley, July 28, 1959 to July 25, 1962</div> <div>Francis H. Russell, September 10, 1962 to July 18, 1969</div> <div>John A. Calhoun, July 8, 1969 to May 31, 1972</div> <div>Talcott W. Seelye, September 11, 1972 to March 22, 1976</div> <div>Edward W. Mulcahy, March 4, 1976 to January 5, 1979</div> <div>Stephen Warren Bosworth, February 9, 1979 to June 22, 1981</div> <div>Walter Leon Cutler, December 11, 1981 - January 2, 1984</div> <div>Peter Sebastian, June 11, 1984 to February 19, 1987</div> <div>Robert H. Pelletreau, June 15, 1987 to May 11, 1991</div> <div>John T. McCarthy, July 2, 1991 to July 16, 1994</div> <div>Mary Ann Casey, July 5, 1994 to July 18, 1997</div> <div>Robin Lynn Raphel, November 7, 1997 to August 6, 2000</div> <div>Rust McPherson Deming, December 28, 2000 to May 17, 2003</div> <div>William J. Hudson, Dec 12, 2003 to Apr 14, 2006</div> <div>Robert F. Godec, May 30, 2006 to 2009</div>
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Tunisia's Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Tekaya, Mohamed Salah

Tunisia’s Ambassador to the United States, Mohamed Salah Tekaya, presented his credentials to the State Department on October 1, 2010, and then to President Obama on December 7, 2010…only ten days before his countrymen exploded in a revolution that toppled the man who had appointed him ambassador, President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. 

 
Tekaya holds university degrees in Political Science and English Literature. He began his diplomatic career in 1982, serving early on at the Office of the Minister and at the Directorates of Asia, Africa and International Organizations and Conferences. He was at the United Nations as First Secretary (1987-1989) and held the same position at Tunisia’s embassy in the United States (1989-1993). He moved up to Counselor in his nation’s embassy in Norway (1995-1998) and then back at the U.N. (1998-2001).
 
From 2003-2004, Tekaya served as Tunisia’s Ambassador to Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, and then as Ambassador to the Netherlands and Denmark from 2007-2010.
 
At first, Tekaya did his job as Ambassador to the U.S. by presenting the views of Ben Ali’s government, and there must have been some tense and difficult moments during that month of revolutionary uncertainty. For example on January 7, 2011, the State Department “summoned” Tekaya to its headquarters, so that he could hear firsthand about its “concerns about the ability of the people of Tunisia to exercise their rights and freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.” 
 
Since the revolution has succeeded in overthrowing Ben Ali, Tekaya has been able to get back to business as usual, as when he hosted a delegation from the Tunisian American Chamber of Commerce, and touted Tunisia’s continuing openness to business: “The mission illustrates the strong commitment of the Tunisian private sector to move quickly to explain to Tunisia’s partners the hopes that the Revolution has created for the people of Tunisia,” in addition to the “opportunities that a democratic Tunisia can offer American companies.” He has also spoken about the Tunisian Revolution before college audiences, where he has called the revolution, “spontaneous, youthful and leaderless.” He has also had less happy tasks, as when he had to inform the director of New York City’s Tunisian Cultural and Information Center that the new government had decided to defund the project and close the center. 
 
Tekaya is also accredited as ambassador to Mexico and Venezuela.
 

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Tunisia's Embassy Web Site in the U.S.
<p>Link to Web Site of Tunisia<b>&rsquo;s Embassy in the U.S. </b></p> <div>1515 Massachusetts Avenue, NW</div> <div>Washington DC 20005</div> <div>Telephone: (202) 862-1850</div> <div>Fax: (202) 862-1858</div>
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U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia

Walles, Jake
ambassador-image

The North African nation of Tunisia, where the recent wave of Arab revolutions began in December 2010, will soon have a new Ambassador from the United States. President Barack Obama on December 14, 2011, nominated career diplomat Jacob “Jake” Walles for the post, which is his first ambassadorship, although he has extensive experience in Middle East relations. He was confirmed by the Senate on March 29, 2012.

 
Born in July 1957 in Wilmington, Delaware, Walles earned a B.A. at Wesleyan University in 1979 and an M.A. at the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University in 1981. He joined the State Department in 1982, and was immediately posted overseas, to serve as Vice Consul at the embassy in Amsterdam, Netherlands, from 1982 to 1984.
 
Over the next decade, he served as first secretary at the embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, as Special Assistant for the Middle East Peace Process in the Near East Bureau in Washington, DC, and as special assistant to the under secretary for Economic Affairs. He returned to Israel to serve as deputy principal officer at the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem from 1996 to 1998, and then applied his growing Mideast expertise to two stateside assignments, as director of the Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs from 1998 to 2000, and as acting deputy assistant secretary for Near East Affairs from January to June 2001.
 
From September 2001 to June 2002, Walles was a member of the 44th Senior Seminar at the State Department. He received his second European posting as deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Athens, Greece, from June 2003 to July 2005, where he coordinated U.S. participation in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
 
Walles went back to Israel for a third time as consul general and chief of mission at the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem from July 2005 to September 2009. As the U.S. diplomat stationed closest to Palestine, Walles was involved in his share of controversy as it often fell to him to be the front man for the George W. Bush administration’s blundering policy towards the Palestinians. After pushing for parliamentary elections in Palestine in 2006, the Bush team, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, was caught off guard when voters, tired of the corruption and incompetence of the Fatah party favored by the Americans, gave a legislative majority to Hamas, which the U.S. viewed as an anti-Israel, anti-American terrorist group. At one point Walles met with the Palestinian president, Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, and promised U.S. support if Abbas would force a military confrontation with Hamas. Fighting between the two groups did break out, but by the time the smoke cleared, Hamas was still in charge of the Gaza Strip.
 
In January 2008, Walles was involved in a controversy when, at a checkpoint operated by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), he and U.S. Security Coordinator Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton refused to roll down their windows or open their car doors to show identification. Walles also incurred the ire of the Israeli government in September 2008 when he told a Palestinian newspaper that the Americans and Israelis were willing to negotiate the status of Jerusalem.
 
After leaving Jerusalem, Walles moved on to a less volatile position, becoming Cyrus Vance fellow for diplomatic studies at the Council on Foreign Relations from late 2009 to early 2010.
 
Walles returned to the State Department to serve as deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East Affairs from June 2010 to December 2011.
 
Like most Foreign Service officers, Walles has been relatively non-partisan, but he made an exception in 2008, when he donated $1,450 to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
 
 
 

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Previous U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia

Gray, Gordon
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President Barack Obama nominated an experienced diplomat to be the US ambassador to Tunisia. Gordon Gray III, who was confirmed by the Senate on July 10, 2009, has almost 30 years experience in the Foreign Service, most of it in positions dealing with the Middle East. Gray succeeds career diplomat Robert F. Godec. Since the opening of the U.S. embassy in Tunis, only career diplomats have held this post. Gray’s father and grandfather were involved in the radio and TV industries in New York. At the time of his death in 1991, his father, Gordon Gray, Jr., was national sales manager in New York for the Christian Broadcasting Network. Born circa 1956 and raised in New York, Gordon Gray III earned a B.A. from Yale University in 1978. He then served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Oued Zem, Morocco, from 1978 to 1980. Returning to academia, he earned a Master’s in International Affairs from Columbia University in 1982. 

 
Shortly after earning his Master’s degree, Gray joined the Foreign Service in 1982. He married Connie Bentivegna of Montreal in November of that year while he was studying Urdu at the Foreign Service Institute. His early overseas service included stints in Pakistan, Jordan, and Canada, while he held Washington assignments in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and the Bureau of South Asian Affairs and on the Soviet desk. As he gained seniority and expertise, Gray earned appointments to key offices in the State Department, including as the Director of the counterterrorism regional affairs office (1996 to 1999), the office of peacekeeping and humanitarian operations (1999 to 2001), and the office of Arabian Peninsula affairs (2001 to 2002). Gray returned to the Middle East in 2002 to serve as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Egypt until 2005. During that assignment, Gray was the first U.S. diplomat to travel to Libya in 2004. Back in Washington, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs from 2005 to 2008, where his responsibilities included the promotion of U.S. interests in the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa, and oversight of the Bureau’s Regional Affairs office.  Most recently, he served as Senior Advisor to the Ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq from June 2008 until May 2009.     
 
Gray and his wife Connie have two sons and one daughter. He enjoys distance running and has run marathons in Egypt, Europe, and the United States. 
 

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