April 6, 2013

Whitehouse Visits Mali, Tunisia, and Libya on Trip with McCain

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has completed a tour of African nations with U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ). The two Senators met with foreign leaders and American officials in Mali, which is currently battling Islamic extremists; Tunisia, where the Arab Spring began; and Libya, which is in the process of rebuilding its government following the overthrow of the long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Senator Whitehouse reported receiving a warm welcome throughout the region, and noted that American ideals continue to enjoy strong support, while the jihadists seeking to intimidate the region’s population and disrupt progress are deeply unpopular.

“The revolutions of the Arab Spring created new opportunities for freedom and democracy across Northern Africa, if jihadists can be prevented from terrorizing and intimidating these countries,” Whitehouse said. “Our American example already inspires those who yearn for democracy, and our engagement is necessary to help these democracies take root.”

During the trip’s first stop in Mali, the Senators met with President Dioncounda Traore, Prime Minister Diango Cissoko, French military commanders, and African joint security forces. They discussed elections, freedom of the press, Islamic extremists, U.S. military and intelligence efforts, and the conclusion of foreign military operations.

The Senators then traveled to Tunisia, where they met with Prime Minister Ali Laarayedh and Foreign Minister Othmane Jarandi. They discussed the progress of democracy and Tunisia’s efforts to draft a new constitution following the Arab Spring, as well as the security situation in the country and throughout the region. While in Tunisia, the Senators also visited the U.S. Embassy in Tunis and met with U.S. Ambassador Jacob Walles.

In Libya, the Senators met with Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdelaziz, as well as the Libyan Ministers of Defense, Justice, and Interior. Topics of discussion once again included the progress of democracy and the nation’s security situation. The Senators also visited the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, where they heard from U.S. officials about the state of Libya’s security and the development of democracy post-revolution; and received an update on the investigation into last year’s attack on the U.S. Consulate compound in Benghazi, which resulted in the death of Ambassador Stevens and his colleagues.

Whitehouse and McCain have traveled together a number of times in recent years. They toured Southeast Asia in 2012, including a stop in Vietnam where McCain was once held as a prisoner of war. In January of this year they toured Egypt, Afghanistan, Israel, and the Syrian border in Jordan. They also traveled together to the 49th Munich Security Conference in February.


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