Tunisia says Syria's 'natural place' is within Arab League

Tunisia's foreign minister said it is up to Arab foreign ministers to decide on readmitting Syria.
Saturday 26/01/2019
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a joint news conference with his Tunisian counterpart Khemaies Jhinaoui in Tunis, Tunisia January 26, 2019. (Reuters)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a joint news conference with his Tunisian counterpart Khemaies Jhinaoui in Tunis, Tunisia January 26, 2019. (Reuters)

TUNIS - Syria's "natural place" is within the Arab League, Tunisia's foreign minister said Saturday, ahead of the organisation's annual summit in Tunis in March.

"Syria is an Arab state, and its natural place is within the Arab League," Khemaies Jhinaoui said during a news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, who is on a tour of North African countries.

The Arab League suspended Syria's membership in November 2011 as the death toll in the country's civil war mounted.

"The question of Syria returning to the Arab League does not depend on Tunisia but on the Arab League," Jhinaoui said.

"The foreign ministers (of member states) will decide on this subject," he added. "What interests us is Syria's stability and security."

Persistent divisions between the Arab League's member states have worked against Syria's readmission.

Russia's intervention in Syria's war since 2015 in favour of President Bashar al-Assad has turned the tide of the conflict in the regime's favour.

The UAE reopened its embassy in Damascus in December, the same month as Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir made the first visit of any Arab leader to the Syrian capital since the start of the war. But Qatar earlier this month rejected normalising ties with Assad.

Lavrov backed overtures to readmit Syria.

"As we have discussed in Algeria and Morocco over the past few days, we would like Tunis to also support Syria's return to the Arab family, the Arab League," Russia's foreign minister said in Tunis, according to Interfax news agency.

Lavrov, who has also visited Morocco on his tour, also said Tunisia and Russia agreed to ramp up "anti-terrorism cooperation".

Russia's foreign minister is due to meet Tunisia's president and prime minister on Saturday.

(With AFP)