Tunisia's foreign ministry reassures EU on 'temporary measures'

The nation press services
2021-07-28 | Since 2 Month

Tunisia's foreign minister phoned his counterparts in Turkey, France, Italy, Germany and the EU to reassure them after president Kais Saied froze parliament and dismissed the government, the ministry said late on Tuesday.

It added that he explained that the extraordinary measures were temporary and that his counterparts pledged to continue supporting the young democracy.

The discussions were held as the Moroccan and Algerian foreign ministers, Nasser Bourita and Ramtane Lamamra, met Mr Saied in Tunis on Tuesday, according to the Tunisian foreign ministry, which made no reference to the political crisis.

 

Tunisia is seen as a key to regional stability, located between Algeria which faces political turmoil and war-battered Libya, from where every year thousands of desperate migrants seek to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, with many dying along the way.

Within the country, opponents of Tunisia's Mr Saied said on Tuesday they were ready for early elections "for the sake of the democratic path," it and that they were "ready to go to early legislative and presidential elections" while warning "that any delay is not used as a pretext to maintain an autocratic regime."

Noureddine B'Hiri, a senior member of the opposition Ennahda party, said they had "decided to campaign peacefully to defeat" the president's plans, saying "national solidarity" was needed.

But before any elections, "parliament should resume its activities and the military end its control," Mr B'Hiri told AFP.

Constitutional crisis

The young North African democracy of 12 million people was thrust into a constitutional crisis on Sunday.

Mr Saied appeared on national television to declare he had dismissed the premier, Hichem Mechichi, and ordered parliament closed for 30 days, later sending army troops to the legislature and the prime minister's office.

Clashes between supporters of Mr Saied and Ennhda party occurred outside the gates of parliament on Monday and several people were injured after demonstrators threw stones.

The president's actions, ostensibly "to save Tunisia", followed a day of street protests against the government's poor handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has claimed one of the world's highest official per-capita death tolls in Tunisia.

The pandemic has crushed vital tourism revenue, compounding a national economic crisis amid political deadlock which has plagued the country for years.

The president also said he would pick a new prime minister, lifted the parliamentary immunity of lawmakers and fired the defence and justice ministers.

The office of the Tunisian parliament, chaired by Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi, late Monday voiced its "absolute rejection and strong condemnation" of the president's actions.

The young democracy had often been cited as the sole success story of the Arab uprisings of 2011, the tumult sparked across the region after Mohamed Bouazizi, a university graduate who could only find work as a fruit vendor, self-immolated in December 2010.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by telephone with Mr Saied and urged him "to adhere to the principles of democracy and human rights that are the basis of governance in Tunisia".

The top US diplomat urged Mr Saied to "maintain open dialogue with all political actors and the Tunisian people," the State Department said.

The European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Tuesday urged "the resumption of parliamentary activity, respect for fundamental rights and an abstention from all forms of violence".



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