Tunisia attack: Diplomatic row breaks out as first British passengers arrive home after Foreign Office warning

Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid says guidelines will have 'serious repercussions' for Britain

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The Independent Online

A diplomatic row has broken out between the British and Tunisian Governments, following advice from the UK Foreign Office that Brits should avoid all but essential travel to Tunisia.

The Tunisian Prime Minister, Habib Essid, is reported to have told a session of parliament that the new guidance would have serious repercussions for Britain, as thousands of UK holidaymakers are airlifted out of the country today. Whilst some tourists had remained in the country, many left immediately following the terrorist attack on 28 June.

Mr Essid announced he would be calling David Cameron “to tell him we have done everything we can to protect all British interests and those of other countries – that’s our duty.”

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The Tunisian Government claim they have done all that they can to protect tourists from any future threats, but this hasn’t stopped the UK Government ranking Tunisia in the same category for danger levels as Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.

“Britain is free to take whatever decision it likes” he told the Tunisian Parliament, near the Tunisian capital of Tunis. “It’s a sovereign country – but we too are a sovereign country and we have a position to take.”

The Tunisian Prime Minister is yet to outline just what this new guidance, which is expected to see the vast majority of British tourists cancel planned trips, will mean for relations between the UK and the North African state.

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Tourists arrive at the Enfidha international airport, as they wait to leave Tunisia

The international argument follows the shocking terror attack in Sousse last month, in which thirty British citizens tragically lost their lives. UK intelligence chiefs have said a terror attack is “highly likely”.

It remains unclear whether Mr Essid’s threats will apply to Ireland, whose Government has followed the UK in calling for its citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to Tunisia, its second highest threat level, today. The German government is yet to alter its advice to their nationals, having had one citizen killed in the attack. The French are remaining silent too.

The foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, said in a statement: “Since the attack in Sousse the intelligence and threat picture has developed considerably, leading us to the view that a further terrorist attack is highly likely.”

The Independent has asked the Tunisian Embassy in London for comment.

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