Tunisia restoring diplomatic relations with Syria
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia’s foreign minister said Thursday that diplomatic relations with Syria will be restored at a consular level, following a long hiatus that began during the Arab Spring.
Taieb Baccouche told journalists that Syria had responded positively to the suggestion to restore relations, which Tunisia cut Feb. 2, 2012.
“We will start by re-establishing relations on a consular level or with a charge d’affaires,” he said. “They will be restored in a progressive manner.”
Tunisia’s then president, rights defender Moncef Marzouki, took a strong stance against the government of Bashar Assad and cut relations in reaction to Syria’s suppression of the pro-democracy uprising.
Tunisia was one of the first Arab countries to break ties with Syria.
The decision has been criticized within Tunisia, especially by families of Tunisians who disappeared in Syria after the breakdown of consular relations hindered their repatriation.
Baccouche acknowledged that the break has been hard on the estimated 6,000 Tunisians living in Syria and called for the return of 43 Tunisians imprisoned in Syria on terror charges.
An estimated 3,000 Tunisians are also believed to have left for Syria to fight with extremist groups there.