Tunisian president praises Italian PM for forthright nature

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Tunisian President Kais Saied praised Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni for speaking her mind as he welcomed her to the presidential palace in Tunis on Tuesday for talks during her official visit to the North African country.

“I’m very happy to speak to you about our problems; I say it out loud, today, you are a woman who says out loud what others think in silence,” Saied told Meloni at the beginning of a meeting that lasted nearly two hours.

A source in the Italian Prime Minister’s Office told Arab News that the two leaders discussed the efforts Italy is making to facilitate an agreement between Tunisia and the International Monetary Fund for a $1.9 billion loan to help the North African country address the severe financial crisis it is facing.

The IMF requires Tunisia’s government to carry out a series of reforms before the loan can be granted. However, Tunisian authorities are asking for a first tranche of funding to be released immediately, with the remainder to be paid as the reforms are implemented.

During last month’s G7 Summit in Hiroshima, Meloni urged the IMF to adopt a “practical” approach to disbursing funds to Tunisia “without preconditions.”

She said on Tuesday: “The loan remains fundamental for a full recovery of the country.” She called for a “concrete approach of the EU so that the support to Tunisia can be increased with a substantial package of financial aid,” and assured Saied she is “ready to come back to Tunis soon with the president of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.”

Meloni also stressed the historical ties between Italy and Tunisia.

“We are friends and we must cooperate together more and more,” she said. “The stabilization and the growth of democracy in Tunisia are essential for Italy. Together we can reach ambitious goals.”

Meloni also met Tunisian Prime Minister Najla Bouden Romdhane, with whom she discussed financial cooperation and efforts to tackle illegal migration.

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