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"We call for the restoration of institutional stability as soon as possible, and in particular for the resumption of parliamentary activity, respect for fundamental rights and an abstention from all forms of violence."

Borrell insisted that "the preservation of democracy and the stability of the country are priorities", and pointed to the "considerable support" given by the EU to help with a financial crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The young North African democracy, the cradle of the Arab Spring uprisings a decade ago, was thrust into a constitutional crisis on Sunday after president Kais Saied dismissed premier Hichem Mechichi and ordered parliament closed for 30 days, a move the biggest political party Ennahdha decried as a "coup".

Saied then sacked the defence minister and justice minister.

The crisis follows months of 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.

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