Tunisia and Syria restore diplomatic relations | ANG
  • June 21, 2024

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Syria’s top diplomat is on a three-day official visit to Tunisia to restore diplomatic ties broken since 2012 during the civil war that followed President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal crackdown on mass protests against his rule.

Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad met his Tunisian counterpart Nabil Ammar shortly after arriving on Monday evening. No details were released on those talks or on Mr. Mikdad’s schedule for Tuesday and Wednesday.

The visit aims to help restore bilateral relations, Tunisia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

This decision is a glaring example of the evolution of the situation in the region over the past decade. Tunisia was the cradle of pro-democracy Arab Spring movements that spread to Syria in 2011 and has long been among Assad’s strongest critics. But today, Tunisian leaders are reverting to authoritarianism and allying themselves once again with Assad’s Syria.

Earlier this month, Tunisian President Kais Saied ordered the appointment of an ambassador to the Syrian capital, Damascus. This decision follows that of the Syrian government to reopen its embassy in Tunis and appoint an ambassador.

In February, Mr Saied announced his decision to raise the level of the Tunisian diplomatic representation in Damascus, while stressing that the crisis facing the Assad government was “an internal matter that concerns only the Syrian people”. The move came just as Tunisia was sending emergency humanitarian aid to Syria following the earthquake that killed tens of thousands in the country and neighboring Turkey.

Mr. Mikdad’s visit to Tunisia is the second leg of a journey that began in Algeria, one of the few Arab countries to have maintained diplomatic relations during Syria’s civil war.

It comes as the influential Tunisian Islamist leader Rached Ghannouchi was arrested following a police search, according to his lawyer, a measure denounced by his supporters as an increased effort by the president to stifle the Tunisian opposition. Mr. Ghannouchi, leader of the Ennahdha party, is Mr Saied’s main critic.

Last week, Mr. Mikdad also visited Saudi Arabia. The two countries have announced that they are preparing to reopen their embassies and resume flights for the first time in more than a decade.

Syria was widely shunned by Arab governments following Mr Assad’s brutal crackdown on protesters in 2011. The breakdown in relations resulted in Syria’s ousting from the Arab League.

However, in recent years, as Assad has consolidated his control over most of the country, Syria’s neighbors have begun to take steps towards rapprochement.

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