Tunisia to revive Syria ties to track jihadists

Jihadists in Syria Image copyright UK Home Office, via Met Police
Image caption Fighters from Tunisia and other Arab countries have bolstered the ranks of groups such as Islamic State

Tunisia says it plans to re-establish diplomatic ties with Syria in order to track its citizens who have gone to fight alongside Islamist militants.

Some 3,000 Tunisian jihadists are thought to have gone to Syria and Iraq.

Tunisian concerns about home-grown militants have been heightened by last month's attack on a Tunis museum.

The country - birthplace of the Arab Spring protests - cut ties with Syria in 2011, where similar unrest had provoked a government crackdown.

Demonstrations in Syria spiralled into a civil conflict, with Islamist factions drawing in jihadists from across the Middle East and Europe.

After the emergence of Islamic State (IS) as the most powerful of the jihadist groups, several European countries re-opened channels of communication with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Mr Assad had earlier been criticised by Western governments for his response to the uprising against his rule.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Foreign Minister Taieb Baccouche said Syria was welcome to send an envoy to Tunisia

Tunisian FM Taieb Baccouche told reporters on Friday that his country would not have an ambassador in Syria but would open a consulate or "put in place a charge d'affaires" there.

He said a consular presence in Syria would help Tunisia keep track of its citizens fighting alongside the Islamist militants.

He added that Syria was welcome to send an ambassador to Tunisia if it so wished.

Mr Baccouche also said his country would restore diplomatic ties with Libya, which has been racked by insecurity since the violent overthrow of Col Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

At least two of the Tunisian men who carried out a deadly attack on the Bardo museum in Tunis last month had trained in Libya.

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