Tunisian President Kais Saied asked his Egyptian counterpart to persuade Gulf states to provide Tunis support after economists warned that economic collapse is possible as a result of the political situation in the country, the former minister of foreign affairs has said.

In a Facebook post Rafik Abdessalem said Saied visited Cairo and met Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi ten days ago and asked for the latter’s help to obtain support from Gulf states.

Abdessalem wrote: “The news circulated by some pages about Saied’s visit to Egypt in a private plane sent to him from eastern Libya is not science fiction, but rather an established fact. About ten days ago, Saied headed on a secret visit to Cairo (which lasted six hours) and met Al-Sisi, Abbas Kamel the director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate, and businessman Naguib Sawiris, then he returned in full concealment and secrecy.”

“Egypt is suffering from a stifling financial crisis and is unable to finance itself, however, he asked it to help him reach the Gulf states, and in this context, there is an attempt to arrange a visit to Abu Dhabi,” Abdessalem added.

Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris is currently in Tunisia, Abessalem said, without disclosing any details about the reason behind his visit.

There was no official comment or confirmation about Saied’s alleged visit to Egypt.

Al-Sisi carried out a bloody military coup against Egypt’s first democratically elected President, Mohamed Morsi, in 2013. He was supported by the UAE and Saudi.

The Gulf states have recently agreed, once again, to provide Egypt with funding to prop up its dwindling economy and stop it from collapse.

Saied has held nearly total power since 25 July when he sacked the prime minister, suspended parliament and assumed executive authority citing a national emergency.

He appointed a prime minister on 29 September. In December, Saied announced that a referendum will be held on 25 July to consider ‘constitutional reforms’ and elections would follow in December 2022.

The majority of the country’s political parties slammed the move as a “coup against the constitution” and the achievements of the 2011 revolution. Critics say Saied’s decisions have strengthened the powers of the presidency at the expense of parliament and the government, and that he aims to transform the country’s government into a presidential system.

On more than one occasion, Saied, who began a five-year presidential term in 2019, said that his exceptional decisions are not a coup, but rather measures within the framework of the constitution to protect the state from “imminent danger”.

In early February he dissolved the Supreme Judicial Council, leading many to believe that he is tightening his grip on power and leaving no hope for free and fair elections to take place, as the move leaves little division between the judiciary and the state.