Tunisia is sprucing up and securing its borders for an Arab League summit that the country hopes will raise its regional profile and economic prospects.
New murals and flags from the 22 Arab League states now decorate the capital, Tunis, as it prepares to host thousands of visitors, including the Saudi King and U.N. secretary-general.
Tunisian diplomats want the country to play a mediating role in a summit marked by thorny issues: President Donald Trump’s recent decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the deepening rift between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and whether to let Syrian President Bashar Assad back into the Arab fold.
For Tunisia, the most pressing issue is bringing stability to neighbouring Libya.
Tunisia and Libya once had $2 billion in bilateral trade, which took a plunge in the lawless chaos that reigned in Libya a few years ago.
Tunisia has hosted repeated diplomatic meetings on Libya and will hold another, with officials from the U.N., African Union, European Union and Arab League this week.
The summit comes at a welcome time when Tunisia is in need of an economic and morale boost.
Tunisian protesters unleashed the 2011 Arab Spring and it is the only country that emerged from the uprisings with a new democracy, but political infighting and a string of attacks in 2015 have hurt the country’s economy.
“While many members of the Arab League are in dispute with each other, Tunisia has managed to maintain good relations with countries around the region, and could play the role of inter-Arab mediator”, says former Tunisian foreign minister, Ahmed Ounais.
Tunisia “can be the winner, especially if it manages to advance the political process in Libya,” he adds.
Tunisia is also hoping the summit brings new investment, notably from Saudi Arabia.