US urges Tunisia to accept IMF reforms after EU offer
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on Monday on Tunisia to agree to International Monetary Fund (IMF) reforms and avoid falling off an "economic cliff" after the European Union dangled a major aid package.
Tunisian President Kais Saied has repeatedly refused "diktats" from the IMF and the United States has led accusations that the birthplace of the Arab Spring is falling to authoritarianism after the dissolution of parliament and arrest of opposition leaders.
But led by Italy, which fears a rise in migration if Tunisia's economy further falters, the European Union on Sunday offered a €900-billion ($968-billion) aid package – contingent on Tunisia reaching an IMF deal.
Blinken, meeting his Italian counterpart, voiced support for the "important step" by the European Union.
But he said "something more comprehensive – that in our judgment the IMF can best provide – would be important to actually helping Tunisia get on a sustainable and positive path".
"We very much would welcome the Tunisian government presenting a revised reform plan to the IMF and for the IMF to be able to act on the plan presented," Blinken told a joint news conference.
"It's clear that Tunisia needs additional assistance if it is going to avoid falling off the proverbial economic cliff," he said.
Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani voiced support for an IMF package and the US position but said that Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's government wanted to offer money as "the first step" toward reforms.
"The stability of Tunisia – and the stability of Libya – is crucial for the stability of the Mediterranean region," Tajani said.