PARIS (Reuters) – France backs the ongoing talks between Tunisia and the International Monetary Fund, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday, as the cash-strapped North African country eyes a key IMF bailout package.

The French government issued a statement after Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna held talks in Paris on Tuesday with Tunisian counterpart Nabil Ammar.

“Madame Colonna reaffirmed France’s full support to the economic reforms which will be decided upon by Tunisia to ensure its development and preserve its social model, as well as support in the discussions that are underway with the IMF,” the statement said.

France’s role is key as Tunisia is an ex-French colony and many leading French companies have a business presence there. Last November, Tunisia signed a $200 million financing pact with France to help support its budget. 

In April, Tunisia’s bonds fell to record lows amid a renewed political clampdown by President Kais Saied and concerns over his warning that he would not accept any “diktats” on terms for an IMF rescue package.

However, Tunisian bonds recovered earlier this month on subsequent hopes that the country, a former French colony, could secure a stalled $1.9 billion support deal with the IMF.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; editing by Mark Heinrich)