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Tunisian President Kais Saied, right, shakes hand with Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, in Jeddah, during the Arab summit, on May 19, 2023. Image Credit: AP

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia: Smiles, a handshake and what Tunisian President Kais Saied called a “historic meeting” with Syrian leader Bashar Al Assad.

The talks between the two presidents, held before the start on Friday of the Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia, buried memories, and perhaps the legacy, of the Arab Spring which started in Tunisia 12 years ago.

“Today, I am absolutely convinced of Tunisian support for Syria,” a statement from Saied’s office said after what is called the “historic” meeting.

Tunisia resumed diplomatic relations with Syria in April, and Al Assad’s presence at the Arab League summit sealed Syria’s return to the club of Arab nations.

The official TAP news agency showed photos of him and Al Assad greeting each other with smiles, a warm hand shake and a sit-down for serious talks.

Al Assad was invited to the residence where the Tunisian president was staying in Jeddah, the Saudi Arabian city hosting the summit.

“We stand together against the movement of darkness,” Al Assad said, apparently referring to extremist groups that came to dominate the Syrian opposition as his country’s war ground on, and militants groups there drew a large number of recruits from Tunisia.

In an interview with Tunisian television, Al Assad said that the North African country “used to be a platform to propagate the (Islamist) mindset.”

“After my meeting with Kais Saied, I am now convinced that the Arab people hasn’t changed and Tunisia is the same,” he was quoted as saying by the Radio Mosaique.