Syria, Tunisia to exchange ambassadors, end decade of estrangement

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BEIRUT, April 12 (Reuters) – Syria and Tunisia will reopen their respective embassies, the two countries said on Wednesday, almost a decade after Tunis severed ties to protest at a deadly crackdown on protesters opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The announcement further chipped away at Syria’s isolation in the Arab world arising from its decade-long civil war, which killed hundreds of thousands of people, drew in numerous foreign powers and splintered the country, destabilising the wider region.

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

Two months ago Tunisia sent planes of aid to help Syria cope with the aftermath of a devastating earthquake and President Kais Saied said he intended to rebuild relations with Damascus.

On Wednesday, Syria’s government said in a statement it had accepted the appointment of a Tunisian ambassador in Damascus and would reopen its own embassy in Tunis with a new envoy there as well.

Since Saied seized almost all powers in July 2021 in what his political opponents have described as a coup, Tunisia has sent signals of openness to repairing relations with Syria.

After the massive Feb. 6 earthquake in southeastern Turkey and northern Syria, aid from regional rivals began to flow in – as did top-tier visitors with the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan going to Damascus.

Assad in turn travelled to the United Arab Emirates and Jordan for talks. He is also set to receive the Saudi foreign minister and has been invited to an Arab League summit, upcoming in Riyadh, for the first time since 2011, sources told Reuters.

Syria’s return to the 22-member League would be mostly symbolic but reflects a change in the regional approach to the the country’s conflict.

Last month, sources told Reuters Saudi Arabia and Syria had reached an agreement to reopen their embassies after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends later in April.

The Saudi foreign ministry did not confirm an agreement was reached but said it was in talks with the Syrian foreign ministry to resume consular services.

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