French Embassy denies existence of privileges granted to French companies for exploitation of underground wealth in Tunisia | Tunisia News Gazette

French Embassy denies existence of privileges granted to French companies for exploitation of underground wealth in Tunisia

The Tunisian Embassy to Tunisia said Thursday that “no French company enjoys preferential conditions or special rights to exploit natural resources in Tunisia in the fields of water, phosphates or oil.”

The French diplomatic representation reacted on its official website to the publication by the Truth and Dignity Commission (French :IVD) of archival documents which confirm according to her “shameless exploitation by the French occupier of Tunisian underground wealth under privileges granted to France which were not abolished after the agreement (of independence) of March 20, 1956 “.

According to the French Embassy “the recent publication of archival documents concerning the colonial period, known by historians and accessible to all for a long time, gives rise to many comments and a reading always salutary and transparent of history”.

“As it has already done in 2017 with the Truth and Dignity Commission to facilitate its work, France willingly makes available to researchers the archives that are in its possession to inform relations that governed the two countries before 1956 “, adds the Embassy.

It specifies “with regard to the exploitation of the sea salt, it is ensured by many companies with non-French capital.” COTUSAL company, held by Tunisian and French capital and producing salt only on salt marshes, indicated to the Embassy has repeatedly asked for the abandonment of the 1949 convention concluded with the Tunisian State “.

The IVD indicated that the revealed documents “are truths that demonstrate the interference of the French occupier in the economic orientations of the independent State and the exploitation of its wealth”.

It stressed that “the French occupation authorities had created companies to which it granted permits to exploit oil fields and quarries under concessions, operating agreements or research permits to secure control on the underground wealth of Tunisia “.

The Commission affirmed that “the shameless exploitation of the natural resources of Tunisia is stipulated by articles 33 and 34 of the agreement of economic and financial independence and by the agreements with exorbitant conditions decided by the French State”.

It pointed out that some agreements provide limited rights to the Tunisian state when it comes to competition with French companies.

Received by President Beji Caid Essebsi on Thursday, academic, historian and expert in Tunisia’s contemporary history Khaled Abid emphasised the role of historians in the study and preservation of contemporary Tunisia’s memory.

“Historians also play a key role in fighting against any attempt to falsify, lie, or alter history, as such practices may create a culture of hatred and aversion, divide the Tunisians and to exploit the history to provoke collateral political conflicts, he added.

“Tunisians have only one history. They should take it with its positive points and its negative points: the positive points need to be enriched and the negative points to be learnt from, he was quoted as saying in a Presidency press release.

“All Tunisians must look to the future so that the country can overcome this difficult stage it goes through,” he further indicated.

In an article published earlier this week in an electronic paper, historian Khaled Abid denounced the ignorance of the president of the “Truth and Dignity Commission” Sihem Ben Sedrine of the rules of the writing of history.

He said Ben Sedrine claims to have obtained, by her own means, documents from the archives stolen by France about the Tunisian wealth still in the hands of the French, while they are known to Tunisians.

These documents are French archival documents and have not been stolen from Tunisia, he pointed out.

Copies of these archives were obtained by Tunisia at the request of President Habib Bourguiba himself in the 1980s and are in possession of the National Institute of Contemporary History.

Technical Director of COTUSAL Riadh Machta told TAP that “the Tunisian State did not terminate, in 2014, the convention allowing this company, whose capital is 65% foreign and 35% Tunisian, to exploit the public maritime domain for the extraction of salt, which resulted in the automatic renewal of this convention dating from 1949, until the year 2029 “.

This convention governing the activity of the Compagnie Generale des Salines in Tunisia, since the colonial era, caused a great controversy after the revolution, because it allows the COTUSAL, to exploit a national wealth (salt) at a symbolic rate fixed, before independence, at one French franc for one hectare per year.

Source: TAP News Agency

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