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Tunisia says plans to renew ties with Syria to help track fighters

By Reuters - Apr 02,2015 - Last updated at Apr 02,2015

TUNIS — Tunisia said on Thursday it plans to reopen a consulate in Syria and offered to invite the Syrian ambassador back to Tunisia in part to help track an estimated 3,000 Tunisian militants fighting in Iraq and Syria.

Last month, two Tunisians who trained with militants in neighbouring Libya, stormed the Tunis Bardo museum and shot 21 foreign tourists, one of Tunisia's worst such attacks.

"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," Foreign Minister Taieb Bakouch told reporters. He gave no dates.

The minister said a consular presence in Syria would help Tunisia glean information on Tunisians fighting alongside Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria and who officials fear will return to carry out attacks at home.

Tunisia would also reestablish diplomatic relations with neighbouring Libya, Bakouch said.

In the four years since its Arab Spring uprising, Tunisia completed a mostly peaceful transition to democracy but has struggled to clamp down on Islamist militants who have been carrying out regular attacks.

After withdrawing their envoys after the start of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2011, some European Union countries have started to privately support more communication with Damascus.

Several countries including China, Indonesia and top allies Russia and Iran have envoys or charge d'affaires in Damascus.

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