US Under Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf reflected on her visit to Tunisia during an online press briefing, Wednesday, September 14, 2022.
Recalling that she met the President of the Republic Kaïs Saïed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Othman Jerandi and his defense and interior colleagues, Imed Memmich and Taoufik Charfeddine, in addition to “prominent Tunisian experts, representatives of civil society and journalists”, she stated that during this visit she had reiterated America’s support for the Tunisian people and its country’s commitment to a long-term partnership with Tunisia. ” This partnership becomes stronger when it is rooted in a shared commitment to democratic principles and human rights. “, we read in the transcript of the press briefing. ” I discussed in Tunis the importance of an inclusive and transparent political reform process that (…) protects basic human rights, including freedom of expression “.
In response to a question from the Masr 360/Al Bawaba reporter about the role of the United States in supporting the democratic process in Tunisia, she noted that the United States had invested ” lots of money, training and support programs and activities in Tunisia to support civil society, journalists, democracy advocates “. ” Finally, as a partner government, as a friendly government, as a friend of Tunisia (…) I was honest in my discussion with President Saïed and he was honest in return about the current politics in Tunisia. It concerns us. We want Tunisia to return to the path of democracy with fully operational democratic institutions. “, she said.
Commenting on the financial situation, she claimed to have ” stressed the importance of Tunisia moving forward as soon as possible in its negotiations with the IMF and implementing significant economic reforms, which are essential to put an end to the economic crisis “.
In response to the Asharq News reporter’s question about the situation in Tunisia, Barbara Leaf added that the country’s economic situation represents ” a huge concern for the United States and for many Tunisians. ” Part of this concern is simply due to the shocks that many economies around the world have suffered, basically two kinds of shocks. On the one hand the pandemic – countries around the world are still struggling with the consequences of the pandemic (…) especially economies like Tunisia’s that were heavily dependent on tourism as part of their economic engine. The second is inflation – or inflation shock, oil shock and food insecurity shock as a result of the terrible war between Russia and Ukraine. “, she advanced.
The economic situation in Tunisia is alarming. All indicators are in the red, and the situation seems most worrying in the absence of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund. The government is counting on an agreement with the financial backer to save the coffers and close the state budget for the year 2022.
The US official also clarified: There are structural problems underlying Tunisia’s stagnant economy and its impending fiscal crisis, and these can and should, in our view, be resolved through a mechanism such as negotiations with the IMF. “.
In this sense, Barbara Leaf emphasized that she had called on the Tunisian authorities to speed up the negotiations because “this will help Tunisia a lot to deal with the problems”. ” We are concerned. There are tools to address this and we believe it is important for Tunisian leaders to act quickly on these issues. “.
As a reminder, the US Under Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs met the President of the Republic, Kaïs Saïed, on August 30, 2022, accompanied by Natasha Franceschi. The head of state then reiterated, among other things, Tunisia’s attachment to the country’s sovereignty and rejected any interference in the country’s internal affairs.
She also met Interior Minister Taoufik Charfeddine on the same day. The meeting focused on the distinguished relations between Tunisia and the United States in all areas, as well as ways to further consolidate them. The Tunisian minister and the two US officials also discussed bilateral cooperation projects between the two countries, especially in the field of security.