President Barak Hussain Obama announced the elevation of Tunisia to the status of a non-NATO ally during the visit of newly elected Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi to Oval office in White House on Thursday. Tunisia joins a select group of countries that have been granted this status without formally signing a defense agreement. These non-NATO allies include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, New Zealand, Australia, Bahrain, Argentina, Philippines, Thailand and Korea.
The non-NATO status qualifies a country to secure cooperation in defense and privileges in defense without a formal commitment to protect. President Essebsi appreciate this gesture of goodwill from President Obama and considered it an important milestone to strengthen the democratic tradition in the country. Tunisia returned to democratic rule after overthrowing a long term dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 after a street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi committed self-immolation in protest.