Qatar calls on Tunisian sides to avoid escalation, start dialogue

Qatar calls on Tunisian sides to avoid escalation, start dialogue
2 min read
Doha urged all parties in Tunisia's political crisis to avoid escalation and seek dialogue.
Street clashes erupted on Monday outside Tunisia's army-barricaded parliament [Getty]

Qatar on Monday called on all parties in Tunisia's political crisis to avoid escalation and move towards dialogue, the state-run Qatar News Agency said, after Tunisia's president dismissed the government and froze parliament on Sunday.

"Qatar hopes that Tunisian parties will adopt the path of dialogue to overcome the crisis," QNA cited a foreign ministry statement as saying.

Street clashes erupted on Monday outside Tunisia's army-barricaded parliament, a day after President Kais Saied ousted the prime minister and suspended the legislature, plunging the young democracy into a constitutional crisis.

Saied sacked Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and ordered parliament closed for 30 days, a move the biggest political party Ennahdha decried as a "coup", following a day of angry street protests against the government's handling of the Covid pandemic.

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Soldiers from early Monday blockaded the assembly in Tunis while, outside, the president's supporters hurled stones and insults at backers of Islamist-inspired Ennahdha, whose leader staged a sit-in to protest being barred entry to the complex.

Saied's dramatic move - a decade on from Tunisia's 2011 revolution, often held up as the Arab Spring's sole success story - comes even though the constitution enshrines a parliamentary democracy and largely limits presidential powers to security and diplomacy. 

It "is a coup d'etat against the revolution and against the constitution," Ennahdha, which was the biggest party in Tunisia's fractious ruling coalition, charged in a Facebook post, warning that its members "will defend the revolution".

The crisis follows prolonged deadlock between the president, the premier and Ennahdha chief Rached Ghannouchi, which has crippled the Covid response as deaths have surged to one of the world's highest per capita rates.

(Reuters)