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Tunisia says no invite for Syria's Assad to Arab summit

Syria was expelled from the Arab League soon after war broke out in 2011 [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 December, 2018

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Tunisia has denied a report that it was would hold talks on inviting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to an Arab League summit in March next year.

Tunisia has denied a report that it was would hold talks on inviting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to an Arab League summit in March next year.

The Tunisian Foreign Minister made the denial to local news website Mosaique FM on Tuesday, a day after Sudan's president became the first Arab leader to visit Syria since the war began there nearly eight years ago.

"The status of Syria is well-known in the Arab League. The Arab leaders will gather in Tunis and they will decide - not Tunisia - on who they will invite," Khemaies Jhinaoui said.

"There is no truth to this report. The issue of participants in the Arab summit comes from within the framework of a joint Arab League decision," he added.

State-run Russian news agency Sputnik reported on Tuesday that Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi would discuss reinstating Syria in the Arab League during an economic meet of the body in Lebanon in January.

Syria was expelled from the 22-member Arab League soon after war broke out in 2011.

Citing an anonymous source in the Tunisian Presidency, the agency said Essebsi would "hold talks in Lebanon on inviting Assad to the summit".

"There is coordination taking place between a number of Arab countries including Tunisia and Algeria to present a suggestion to unfreeze Syria's membership," the source added.

The report came after Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir visited Assad in Damascus.

Arab countries have sanctioned Damascus and condemned Assad for using overwhelming military force and failing to negotiate with the opposition.

But as troops loyal to Assad's regime recapture key cities and population centres, some Arab officials have expressed interest in exploring the restoration of ties.

In October, Assad told a little-known Kuwaiti newspaper that Syria had reached a "major understanding" with Arab states after years of hostility.

The encounter raised questions about whether the Gulf countries, most of them sworn enemies of Assad ally Iran, are reconsidering their relations with Syria.

Last month, Russian media reported that the United Arab Emirates was negotiating the reopening of its embassy in Syria and return of its ambassador to Damascus.

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