Tunisian President Kais Saied is meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Monday evening for discussions that are set to include conflict-torn Libya and the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis.
On his first trip to Europe since he was elected in October last year, Saied is also the first head of state to visit France since the lockdown of the country amid the pandemic. Virus restrictions enforced in France in mid-March have almost all been lifted in recent weeks.
Tunisia has strong political and economic ties with France, its former colonial power.
Libya is set to be on top of the agenda, Macron’s office said.
France is pushing for a cease-fire as a priority in Tunisia’s neighbor, which has been in turmoil since 2011 when a NATO-backed uprising toppled leader Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed.
Libya has since been split between rival administrations in the east and the west, each backed by armed groups and different foreign governments.
Monday’s meeting in Paris, which will be followed by a dinner at the Elysee presidential palace, also comes less than two weeks after Tunisia’s parliament rejected a motion calling on France to apologize for crimes permitted during the colonial era and pay reparations.
But proponents of the motion said an apology is necessary to “turn the page on this dark period” in the history of the two countries and put their relations on a more equal footing.
Opponents argued that such a move would spell economic disaster, given that France is Tunisia’s top trading partner and No. 1 foreign investor. It’s also home to 1 million Tunisians.
The debate came amid renewed anger in some European countries about colonialism’s crimes, stemming from protests in the U.S. over racial injustice and police violence after the death of George Floyd.
France occupied Tunisia as a protectorate for 75 years, from 1881 until 1956. French soldiers only left Tunisian territory in 1963.