Tunisia said on Saturday it would recall its ambassador from Morocco for consultations, a day after the kingdom did the same in response to Tunisia's president hosting the Polisario movement's head.
The Polisario wants an independent state in the Western Sahara, a vast stretch of mineral-rich desert which Morocco sees as a sovereign part of its own territory.
Tunisian President Kais Saied had on Friday hosted Polisario chief Brahim Ghali who arrived to attend the Japanese-African investment conference TICAD.
In response to what it called a "hostile" and "unnecessarily provocative" act, Morocco immediately withdrew its Tunis ambassador for consultations and cancelled its own participation in the high-profile conference.
On Saturday, the Tunisian Foreign Ministry voiced its "surprise" at Morocco's reaction.
"Tunisia has maintained its total neutrality on the Western Sahara issue in line with international law," it said in a statement.