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Italy Supports IMF Tunisia Funding

FILE Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani during a news conference in Rome, Italy. Taken Feb.9, 2023.

ROME - Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said Thursday that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) should approve an initial, unconditional bailout package for Tunisia, with further payments dependent on reforms.

"Our proposal is to start financing Tunisia through the Monetary Fund, and deliver, after a first tranche, a second tranche as the reforms proceed," Tajani said after a meeting with his Tunisian counterpart, Nabil Ammar.

"But not utterly conditional on... the conclusion of the reform process. Start financing, encourage the reforms," he told reporters.

Ammar "assured me the reforms are proceeding", Tajani added.

Tunisia reached a deal in principle in October with the IMF for nearly $2 billion to shore up its sinking economy but the bailout still needs approval by the IMF board, which is pressing for reforms, primarily on the economy.

In recent days, EU leaders including Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni have warned of the risks of an economic collapse which could drive more people to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

Migrants from across Africa and Tunisia itself regularly use Tunisia's coastline, less than 150 kilometers from the Italian island of Lampedusa, as a springboard for attempts to reach Europe.

"Skeptical or negative messages about Tunisia... do not help the Tunisian economy and fuel all the problems, including illegal migration," Ammar said Thursday in joint statements to the press.

"Helping the Tunisian economy also means fighting migration," he said.