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France pledges one billion euros aid to troubled Tunisia as Essid meets Hollande

media French President Francois Hollande (R) accompanies Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid as he leaves the Elysée Palaceon Friday Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

France will provide one billion euros in aid to Tunisia over the next five years, François Hollande's office announced on Friday after the French president met Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid. The announcement came on the same day that Tunis announced a curfew because of unemployment protests, although Essid said in on Friday afternoon that the situation was "under control".

France will put together a one-billion-euro economic support package for the troubled north African country, a statement by the French president said Friday.

"A major aspect of the plan aims to help poor regions and young people, putting the focus on employment," it said.

One of the first proposals was a 60-million-euro project to build a hospital in the central Gafsa region.

Tunisia launched the "Arab Spring" revolts, toppling prime minister Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, but has been hit by economic problems and political violence since.

"Five years after the revolution, Tunisia has succeeded in its democratic transition but remains confronted by major economic, social and security challenges," Hollande's office said.

Protests erupted this week following the death of a 28-year-old unemployed man on Saturday and the government declared a curfew on Friday.

Essid cut short his tour of Europe to return to deal with the latest crisis, although, while still in Paris, he insisted that the situation had been "brought under control".

The two leaders also discussed jihadist violence.

"Tunisia, like France, is threatened and has been seriously affected by terrorism, because it made a choice for democracy," said the French statement. "The president underlined that France is ready to reinforce its cooperation in the fight against terrorism."

Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who was also present at Friday's discussions, will visit Tunisia by the end of the year to jointly chair the first meeting of a high-level Franco-Tunisian committee.


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