The president of Tunisia is reportedly prepared to offer Syrian President Bashar al-Assad refuge in his country in a negotiated compromise to end the bloodshed in Syria that has claimed at least 8,000 lives over the past year.
The Associated Press reported that President Moncef Marzouki told the French-language daily newspaper La Presse that his offer would also extend to the top officials of Assad’s regime.
An aide to Marzouki, Adnen Monssar, told Reuters: Tunisia is ready in principle to grant political asylum to Bashar al-Assad and his family if this proposal will contribute to stopping the bloodshed.”
Tunisia would be a curious and ironic haven for Assad, the AP noted, since it set off the Arab Spring revolutions last year when its own longtime dictator, President Zibe El Abidine Ben Ali, fled the country.
In addition, AP said, Tunisia was the very first foreign nation to call back its ambassador from Damascus to protest the Assad regime’s brutal crackdown on protesters. Tunisia also was the first country to expel the Syrian ambassador.
Tunis also hosted a peace conference last week -- the “Friends of Syria” -- on the Syria issue and called for the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the country and a ceasefire by all parties.
Should Assad accept exile in Tunisia, it would raise some interesting questions. Among other complicating, factors, the United Nations human rights chief has indicated that Assad and his top associates should be prosecuted for war crimes in the murder, detention and torture of protesters in Syria.
Marzouki is himself a former human rights activist and doctor.
Ben Ali is believed to be in exile in Saudi Arabia, although the Tunisian government has asked the Interpol police agency to arrest him for money laundering and drug trafficking.