Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb has signed 16 agreements with Tunisia during a two-day visit to the fellow North African country, that was also marked by the head of the Egyptian cabinet storming out of a press conference when challenged by a Tunisian journalist.
Mehleb also met with President Beji Caid Essebsi, who accepted an invitation from President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to visit Egypt.
Prime Minister Mehleb’s meeting with his Tunisian counterpart Habib Essad took place during the15th Egyptian-Tunisian High Committee meeting that resumed for the first time in five years, and seeks to promote deeper relations.
The memoranda of understanding (MoUs) and executive programmes signed covered numerous sectors, including research, health, economics, and media. However few details about the agreements were released. It is understood that one agreement included the mutual recognition of accreditation certificates which will allow for greater penetration of Tunisian products in Egypt.
MoUs included cooperation in water resources, the stock market, control of markets, and environmental protection. There were executive programme agreements in the fields of education, youth, sports, and childhood, according to state-run news agency MENA.
The two prime ministers also spoke on the importance of using culture in the fight against extremist ideology, which should focus on the youth.
Moreover, during a press conference with Essad, Mehleb was asked by a local journalist about corruption and the Monday resignation and arrest of Egypt’s agriculture minister Salah Helal.
“You appointed him, you yourself are accused in the biggest corruption case in the country, the Presidential Palaces case,” the local Tunisian journalist said, referring to the case in which former president Hosni Mubarak and his sons were given three and four year sentences on embezzlement convictions.
As the journalist asked Mehleb the question, the Prime Minister responded by stepping from the podium and leaving the venue, to which the journalist responded: “Is this the Egyptian press freedom?”
Prime Minister Mehleb, who was head of Arab Contractors company from 2001 to 2012, was also implicated in the Presidential Palaces case, but had no charges brought against him, despite court papers originally alleging that he was involved in the graft scheme. The Arab Contractors received millions of pounds of public money for the “upkeep” of Mubarak’s properties.
Meanwhile, in Egypt, pro-government journalists, including Ezzat Shaaban, tried to undermine the Tunisian journalist by stating that he was an Islamist and associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Shaaban said that Mehleb “was already leaving the conference before the question”.