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Brussels, 17 January 2011

Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission, and Štefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and the European Neighbourhood Policy, made today the following statement:

"In this critical moment, we reaffirm the EU's solidarity with Tunisia and its people. We condemn, once again, the violent repression of the demonstrations and reiterate our sympathy to the families and friends of the victims. We pay tribute to the courage of the Tunisian people and their peaceful struggle for their rights and democratic aspirations.

We are urging the Tunisian authorities to act responsibly, preserve peace, show restraint and avoid further violence and casualties. We condemn any actions aiming at further destabilising the security situation.

The message from the Tunisian people is loud and clear: Tunisia has reached a point of no-return. The EU will stand side by side with Tunisians as they pursue their peaceful and democratic aspirations. Tunisia wants to be a stable democracy, in full respect of fundamental rights and freedoms. It wants free and fair, inclusive elections. We will support Tunisia in their endeavours to achieve this.

We call for the formation of a new unity Government that ensures a peaceful democratic transition.   To respond to the demands of the people, a truly inclusive electoral process with appropriate guarantees is essential. In a spirit of openness and dialogue, all democratic forces must now come forward to shape a new Tunisian democracy and correct the mistakes of the past.

The EU stands ready to provide immediate assistance to prepare and organise the electoral process and lasting support to a genuine democratic transition. If requested, we are also prepared to deploy the necessary assistance to help the Tunisian authorities with urgent needs.

In addition, we are already working on a broader package to assist with democratic reforms and economic development as soon as the political situation stabilises."

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