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Tunisia's Saied to restore diplomatic relations with Syria

March 11, 2023

Tunisia severed ties with Syria during the Arab Spring to protest the Assad government's brutal crackdown against the opposition. President Kais Saied has now vowed to reverse this move.

 Tunisian President Kais Saied wearing an earpiece in Brussels
Kais Saied will reopen Tunisia's diplomatic representation in Syria after almost a decadeImage: Johanna Geron/REUTERS

Tunisian President Kais Saied said on Friday that he plans to restore diplomatic relations with Syria, more than a decade after Tunisia broke off relations with Bashar al-Assad's government over its repression of political opponents.

"Nothing can justify the absence of a Tunisian ambassador in Damascus and an ambassador from Syria in Tunis," Saied said during a discussion with Tunisia's Foreign Minister Nabil Ammar that was broadcast on Friday night.

Saied previously mentioned his desire to "reinforce Tunisia's diplomatic representation" in Syria in February.

A change in direction

Tunisia has long been hailed as one of the few success stories of the Arab Spring after protesters overthrew authoritarian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and ushered in democratic elections.

The country subsequently expelled Syria's ambassador in 2012 to protest Assad's brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations that emerged from the Arab Spring. This crackdown descended into the ongoing civil war.

In 2017, Tunisia reopened a limited diplomatic mission in Syria to track more than 3,000 Tunisian militants fighting in Syria.

Saied, who took power in 2019, said on Friday that the "question of the regime in Syria concerns only the Syrians."

In recent months, thousands of Tunisians have held several large protests against a power grab by Saied that was later enshrined in a new constitution. Opposition parties, civil society groups and trade unions say they fear a return to authoritarianism.

Tunisia labor union protests President Saied

zc/ar (Reuters, AFP)