War with Isis: Tunisian ambassador issues stark call for new approach to combat fundamentalism

Nabil Ammar also urged British tourists not to abandon his country

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The Independent Online

Military action will never stop atrocities like the murder of 30 British tourists in Tunisia, the country’s ambassador to Britain has warned as he issued a stark call for a new approach to tackling Islamic fundamentalism.

In an interview with The Independent, Nabil Ammar, who last week met David Cameron to discuss a new joint approach to fighting against Isis-inspired attacks, said all countries needed to reassess their approach to the so-called war on terror.

He suggested that money spent on military action could be better used on economic aid and said the priority must change to tackling the underlying political factors that had led to the rise of fundamentalism.

He also urged British tourists not to abandon his country as a holiday destination in the wake of the attacks, warning that such atrocities could “happen anywhere” and that the economic hardship caused by a loss of visitors could potentially fuel some of the underlying factors behind the rise of terrorism. Nearly 15 per cent of Tunisia’s GDP comes from tourism.

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Armed police patrol Marhaba beach in Sousse (Getty)

“A security and military response can contain the problem [but] it cannot solve the problem,” he said. “We have been doing that for a long time and the threat is only increasing. We need to change.

“You cannot have one simple answer or two. This problem has to do with education. It has to do with chaos in some parts of the world. It has to do with the feeling of being mistreated, misunderstood – if not hated. It has to do with social policy and foreign policy. My conviction is that the long-term solution is to increase economic development. We have so far invested in wars but now we should invest in the economy and to include this part of the world in the worldwide economy.”

Mr Ammar said he had been enormously heartened by the British response to the attack in which 38 tourists died at the hands of a young Tunisian man in the resort city of Sousse.

He said the embassy had received “dozens” of letters of support from members of the public and received a “strong commitment” from the Government at the “highest level” to increase co-operation in order to combat terrorism.

 

“I have to thank the British authorities at all levels but also the public for their support and messages of solidarity. They have well understood that what was targeted was the security of all of us,” he said.

“I would like to send a message to the British people – in particular to those who have lost friends and relatives. They were guests to us and that is the worst thing that can happen when guests are killed. You are a great people and your reaction has been great. You know what suffering means. You know what terror means.”

But he warned that in the longer term much more effort needed to be put into tackling the underlying political support for terrorist groups like Isis rather than characterising as a problem of religion.

“We should be very clear there is no religion on earth – and Islam the last one – that would preach to kill innocent people,” he said.

“So every misinterpretation should be put in its real context. This is about politics. But they [Isis] know that religion is very powerful. We have to be serious, courageous and not miss this opportunity to address all the aspects of the problem including those that are difficult – such as foreign policy and the distribution of wealth. If I am gaining too much and you are gaining nothing then in the short term then I may be happy but this is not the solution for all of us.”

Mr Ammar said security at Western resort and tourist destinations in Tunisia were being stepped up and a decline in tourism would damage his country’s prosperity which, in turn, would provide succour to those who used poverty as a recruitment tool. “Of course we are taking measures to dramatically increase security and British authorities have helped us,” he said. “The level that Tunisia needs in terms of assistance and help is nothing for our partners. And the outcome would be very good for all of us. When people do not have any hope it is very easy to express violence and hatred.”

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