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Philip Hammond holds anti-terror talks with Tunisian leader

Published 27/11/2015

Flowers on the beach in Sousse, Tunisia, where 38 people were killed by a terrorist gunman
Flowers on the beach in Sousse, Tunisia, where 38 people were killed by a terrorist gunman

The Foreign Secretary has flown to Tunisia to meet the country's president to discuss the bloody terror attacks that hit the country this year.

Philip Hammond travelled to North Africa today from Malta, where he is attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) with Prime Minister David Cameron.

Mr Hammond held talks with Beji Caid Essebsi at the presidential palace in Carthage, near the capital Tunis, where they discussed counter-terrorism collaboration between Britain and Tunisia and the effects on tourism in the country.

Thirty Britons were among the 38 people killed by gunman Seifeddine Rezgui at the tourist resort at Port El Kantaoui, about 10 kilometres north of the city of Sousse.

The mass shooting followed a deadly strike in March, when militants killed 22 people, including one Briton, at the Bardo museum in the capital Tunis.

And on Tuesday, so-called Islamic State (IS) said it was behind a suicide bomb attack on a bus carrying presidential guards in Tunis, which killed 13 people.

Following the 45-minute meeting, Mr Hammond said: "It's a great pleasure to be here in Tunis today."

He told Tunisian state television: "I have had an excellent meeting with his excellency the president, in which first of all I conveyed my condolences for the sad loss of national guardsmen in the bomb attack on Tuesday, and conveyed the condolences of my government and my countrymen.

"I also was able to confirm to the president that we understand the challenges Tunisia is facing, as a neighbour of Libya, from the terrorism threat, and that Britain will stand with Tunisia as it grows its new democracy and shows the world that it is possible to reconcile different views and different opinions, and for people to live harmoniously together.

"We are working with you already on security enhancement. We stand ready to work with you on economic support and economic reform as your government delivers changes to the way your economy works to secure the jobs and the growth that are necessary to secure your long term future.

"We understand the challenges that Tunisia is facing and I want to say again as my Prime Minister said earlier this year after the Sousse attacks: you will not stand alone against this threat. We will be by your side."

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