Tunisia restores diplomatic relations with Syria ‘at consular level’
Foreign Minister says consular presence in Syria will help Tunisia glean information on 3,000 Tunisians who have left to fight for Islamist extremists.
TUNIS - Tunisia's foreign minister says 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 Thursday that Syria had responded positively to the suggestion to restore relations, which were cut in February 2012.
"We will not have an ambassador there, but Tunisia will open a consulate or put in place a charge d'affaires, and a Syria ambassador is welcome to Tunisia, if Syria wishes so," Baccouche told reporters, without giving a date for the moves.
The minister said a consular presence in Syria would help Tunisia glean information on the 3,000 Tunisians who have left to fight for Islamist extremists in Iraq and Syria and who officials fear will return to carry out attacks at home.
Two Tunisian militants, who had been trained in neighbouring Libya, stormed the Tunis Bardo museum last month and shot 21 foreign tourists in one of the North African country's worst such attacks.
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 pro-democracy uprisings.
The decision has been criticized within Syria, especially by families of Tunisians who disappeared in Syria after the breakdown of consular relations hindered their repatriation.