NEW DELHI: The Tunisian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Taieb Baccouche, is sophisticated, articulate, and surprisingly honest in his assessment of the current situation in West Asia. He has longstanding experience as a human rights activist, and is also a leader in the Nidaa Tounes Party. He is currently in Delhi to participate in the India Africa summit and in an interaction with the Editor of The Citizen and a few others expressed his views on a host of issues. Excerpts:

1. On Daesh:

Will join the fight against Daesh but it has to be led by the United Nations. The cooperation by Tunisis will be only on intelligence sharing, and no ‘boots on the ground’ military action at any stage.

There is evidence of largely unemployed Tunisian youth crossing into (unstable) Libya, being trained in mosques and online, getting financial help, and joining Daesh. It is because of this we need intelligence cooperation to seal our borders, and ensure that the young Tunisians are not recruited.

We are building trenches along the border with Libya, but not a wall as has been reported.

Daesh is growing because of military action, as violence creates violence. Dismantling of governments cannot help check the growth, as this can only be done by governments in the saddle, and with the popular support of the peoples of the concerned countries.

This is why we are completely against foreign intervention, as that does not resolve the problem as we can see in the countries in West Asia.

We are all under obligation to respect each other, this absence of respect, humiliation and marginalisation feeds into strengthening groups like Daesh. We must remember that South Africa got its freedom by rejecting the military option, not a single state asked foreign powers for military help, and converting the apartheid struggle into an essentially political and economic one. It is from here that a step by step solution emerged, from within and not from the outside. Nelson Mandela in his wisdom ensured this.

Daesh has been created by the policies of (George W.)Bush and (Tony) Blair.

2. On the current situation in Syria:

The problem has been created by Nato powers, and it is only right that they pay for it by housing the refugees.

Bush and Blair who have committed crimes against humanity. Instead of a resolution they have made the situation far worse as in Iraq , Syria, Libya. We are against military intervention.

We have over 7000 Syrian refugees in Tunisia. But it is the responsibility of Europe to accept the refugees as those governments are responsible for their current distress.

Russia in Syria or the US is not the issue. Daesh is now targeting Libya, there is need for a united, cohesive approach.

3. On the face off between Saudi Arabia and Iran:

This is a very unfortunate problem. And a solution to this would offer a solution to all the West Asian countries facing a multi ethnic problem within. A solution is possible, but such issues cannot be resolved without giving priority to human rights,freedom of religion, tolerance. We should not try to enforce our opinions, our beliefs on the other or try to prevent the minority from practising their faith, or their language as this will lead to conflict. To force ones religion on abother is a form of violence and violence will lead to violence.

In a situation like Saudi Arabia and Iran, there should be a dialogue based on mutual respect and not through a thought process that believes that the other can be wiped off the face of the map. This attitude leads to provocations, tensions and wars. Continuous dialogue is the anser, after we talk between religions such as between Christians and Muslims, why can’t we talk within the religion to each other? Foreign agencies are provoking and trying to create tensions, but we should not allow them to provoke us into the kind of reaction as in Yemen,

Political differences should not be turned into religious difference as these then become more dangerous. As these then changes a political issue into one of religious piety, and looks for not a political but a religious solution.

Organisations like the Organisation of Islamic Conference, the Arab League should start and sustain a dialogue. The Arab League became weak because it could not find a solution to even the first Gulf Crisis. If it had found a solution there would not have been a foreign invasion in West Asia.

On Palestine:

This is not an issue of religion, of Muslims and Jews. It is an issue of illegal occupation.