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Tunisia: EU's Borrell calls for quick return to stability

The European Union has urged Tunisian President Kais Saied to return stability to the country as soon as possible. Ousted Prime Minister Hichem Michechi has made his first comments since his dismissal.

Soldiers stand on a military vehicle in Tunis

Soldiers blocked off the area around the parliament in Tunis after protests against the prime minister's dismissal

The European Union's foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell issued a call for a speedy return to stability in Tunisia on Tuesday after the president sacked the prime minister and froze the parliament.

"We call for the restoration of institutional stability as soon as possible, and in particular for the resumption of parliamentary activity, respect for fundamental rights and an abstention from all forms of violence," Borrell said in a statement.

His comments followed in the footsteps of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who urged Tunisian President Kais Saied in a phone call on Monday to "adhere to the principles of democracy and human rights," according to a statement from the State Department.

Josep Borrell

Borrell pointed to the financial support the EU has given to Tunisia to aid with the country's economic crisis in the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic

Blinken had also "urged President Saied to maintain open dialogue with all political actors and the Tunisian people, noting that the United States would continue to monitor the situation and stay engaged," the statement added.

A nighttime curfew, as well as a two-day suspension of public institutions, came into effect on Tuesday at Saied's behest.

Ousted prime minister accepts handover of power

The international attention came after Saied dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and closed down the parliament for 30 days — after months of anti-government protests, institutional conflicts and political instability.

Rabeb Aloui: Clashes in Tunisia after ousting of

Michechi spoke late on Monday for the first time since being ousted from his position. He expressed his willingness to hand over power to whomever Saied picks as his successor.

"I will hand over the responsibility to the person chosen by the president of the republic to head the government," Mechichi said. "I can never be a disruptive element or part of the problem that complicates the situation."

Although Saied had picked Mechichi for the role, the two clashed in recent months after the prime minister dismissed an interior minister seen as close to the president. Saied later refused to approve a cabinet reshuffle, bringing the parliament to a standstill.

Mechichi is not affiliated with any party, but had the support of the moderate-Islamist Ennahdha party and the Qalb Tounes party.

International community issues warnings

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that it was too early to determine whether Saied's dismissal of parliament was technically a coup. According to US law, the government is forced to cut off aid to leaders who come to power by overthrowing elected officials.

Saied's opponents, the Ennehdha party — the largest in parliament — has called it a coup, something the president roundly rejects.

Germany was also cautious with the word "coup" in its own comments on the situation on Monday.

"We call on all Tunisian actors to respect the constitution, its institutions and the rule of law," another EU spokesperson said on Monday. "We also call on them to remain calm and to avoid any resort to violence in order to preserve the stability of the country."

ab/nm (Reuters, AFP, dpa, EFE)