Tunisian PM pledges to step down to rescue talks

Tunisia’s Islamist premier Ali Larayedh made a written pledge to step down in a last-ditch bid to rescue crisis talks on Friday that the opposition was threatening to boycott.

The national dialogue aims to end months of political deadlock between the government and the mainly secular opposition that has paralysed Tunisia’s political transition nearly three years after the January 2011 overthrow of veteran strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Amid growing doubts that the opposition would attend a new attempt to launch the negotiations on Friday, Prime Minister Ali Larayedh sent a written commitment to mediators that his government would resign, his ruling Islamist party Ennahda said.

The pledge drew a positive initial reaction from opposition members, although an official reaction had yet to be announced.

Fadhel Mahfoudh, president of the bar association that is helping mediate the crisis, said he thought the national dialogue could begin later on Friday following a delay of several hours.

Earlier efforts to launch the talks on October 5 and 23 failed, most recently after a statement by Larayedh failed to satisfy opposition demands.

“Last night on television, Tunisia’s prime minister reiterated his government’s pledge to step down according to the quartet roadmap, following the implementation of the preceding milestones in the roadmap,” Ennahda said on Friday.

“A signed statement of the same pledge has been sent to the quartet hosting the national dialogue.”

The opposition has previously refused to join the talks until Larayedh gives a “clear and explicit” undertaking that his government will step down within three weeks of the dialogue’s launch.

 

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