Thank you very much for coming and good afternoon. It’s truly a pleasure to be back in Tunisia, especially at such an historic and hopeful moment in this country’s democratic transition.
Three years ago, the Tunisian people launched a revolution whose effects have been felt around the region, a revolution aimed at freedom, dignity and opportunity. Their path has not been easy. There have been many challenges, and many setbacks. But today, thanks to their own determination and courage, Tunisians stand closer to realizing the promise of their revolution.
We are deeply encouraged by the recent political developments in Tunisia, especially the ratification of its new constitution and the inauguration of its new government. Only Tunisians can navigate the path ahead, but as they do, they can continue to count on the friendship and practical support of the United States. As President Obama emphasized in his State of the Union address a few days ago, Tunisia’s success matters to America. And it matters across this very complicated region, where Tunisia’s success can set a powerful and positive example.
I was delighted to have the chance to meet with President Marzouki and Prime Minister Joma’a. We discussed the importance of maintaining the transition’s momentum by finalizing the electoral law and fixing a date for elections before the end of 2014. We also talked about the crucial importance of creating jobs and continuing economic reforms. And we spoke about how we can contribute to Tunisia’s economic revival, expand trade and investment, deepen cooperation on security issues, and elevate our bilateral engagement in the months ahead.
I was pleased to inform Prime Minister Joma’a that as a part of our continued commitment to the people of Tunisia, the United States plans to provide, pending approval from Congress, an additional 10 million dollars to expand the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship program for Tunisian students to spend one year studying at a college or university in the United States. Currently there are 65 Tunisian Jefferson Scholars in the U.S. and we look forward to offering that opportunity to even more students in the years to come.
Later this afternoon, I will have the opportunity to meet separately with Nahda President Ghannouchi and Nida Tunes President Essebsi. I will encourage both leaders to sustain their remarkable spirit of dialogue and compromise to ensure the success of the democratic transition.
Tunisia remains a source of inspiration for people across this region. It stands as an example of what dialogue and compromise can achieve. And it reminds us that despite all the challenges and all the uncertainties of change, a better future is still very much within reach.
Thank you all very much. I look forward to your questions.
- Cross posted from state.gov